Everything you need to know about the lower three chakras
In the Hatha Yoga tradition originating in India, our life-force energy is known as prana, while in Chinese medicine, qigong and tai chi it’s chi (qi); Reiki practitioners call it ki, and it’s mana in Hawaiian spiritual practice.
This vital life force connects our physical and energy bodies and is transported by means of chakras, translated as “wheels” or “discs”. Chakras are the spinning centres, often referred to as vortexes of energy, aligned vertically along the length of the spinal cord from the base of the spine to the crown of the head.
For the purposes of our two-part chakra exploration series, we will explore the seven-chakra system, with the lower three chakras examined in this first part.
Overview of the lower chakras
This overview and suggested practices focus on the lower three chakras — muladhara, svadhisthana and manipura — which are considered your physical chakras and are responsible for your self-image and physical and emotional identity, together with your relationship to the physical world. The lower three chakras connect, through your heart chakra, to the upper three, which are regarded as your spiritual centres and will be discussed in a follow-up article.
First chakra / root chakra
The root chakra, often referred to as the base chakra, is linked to the Earth element, your foundation and physical identity, and is located at the base of the spine at the perineum, between the genitals and the anus.
Muladhara rules your pelvic floor, bones, large intestine, legs and feet, together with your relationship to the material world of matter and form, and is responsible for how grounded, secure and safe you feel in the world. Think of this energy centre as your roots.
Your root chakra is associated with your primal needs for survival — food, shelter, safety — and controls your relationships with money, your family and your physical body, and how you nourish yourself.
A malfunctioning muladhara chakra may manifest physically in sciatica or knee problems and affect how grounded and rooted you feel on your feet as well as your stability, financial security and body image. Feeling greedy and heavy are the excessive qualities of the first chakra, while anxiety, fear, restlessness and being underweight are signs of its deficiency.
The frequency at which chakras spin and vibrate changes as your life happens and you experience love and joy, manage your stress levels and address challenges that arise.
When muladhara is balanced, you feel safe and body-aware, are filled with vitality and able to trust, as well as enjoy good health and abundance.
To help balance your root chakra, you may include grounding walking meditations and bare-feet earthing in your routine.
Nurture your body with self-care practices, including nutritious foods (eg grounding root vegetables such as sweet potato, carrots and parsnips), a yoga routine encompassing grounding and leg-strengthening poses together with the asanas (poses) opening leg channels: Warrior I and II, Triangle, Eagle, Chair, Tree, Knee to Chest, Bridge, Locust, and Standing and Seated Forward folds.
Second chakra / sacral chakra
Now that you feel secure and stable (qualities of the first chakra), you are moving into the abode of the second chakra, which is about meeting your needs and desire for pleasure.
The sacral chakra is associated with the Water element, movement and your emotional identity. It’s located in the pelvic bowl just in front of your sacrum, opening into the pelvic basin, encompassing the area between your sexual organs and the navel.
The second chakra governs your hips, inner thighs and reproductive organs, together with the urinary and circulatory systems.
Svadhisthana rules your desires, emotions, sensuality, sexuality, pleasure and the need to create, whether it’s birthing your children or fostering your creative expression in the world.
... when the energy in your chakras is in balance, you live in good health and harmony ...
When this chakra is unbalanced, your life may be controlled by impulsive behaviours, dissatisfaction with sex, relationships with poor boundaries, materialistic attachments and excessive need to control.
Tight lower back, kidney and urinary bladder issues, frigidity and impotence are physiological malfunctions of the second chakra. Self-indulgence, addictive behaviours and heightened sensitivity are signs of the excessive svadhisthana, whereas self-punishment, rigidity, low libido and emotional detachment indicate deficiency in this energy centre.
When it’s balanced, you are able to express your emotions, establish healthy boundaries, experience pleasure, move with grace and fluidity and adapt to change when needed.
When creating a yoga sequence for balancing your sacral chakra, include poses that can help you open your hips and groin as well as release the sacrum. These include Warrior II, Extended Side Angle, Squat, Reclined Bound Angle, Bound Angle, Downward-Facing Dog and Happy Baby.
You may also want to explore exercises and activities that inspire your creative expression (eg journalling, art, drawing, dancing, playing music, cooking).
Third chakra / solar plexus chakra
The purpose of the solar plexus chakra is to inspire transformation; it opens from your lumbar spine (L2) into the navel, from which it extends to the solar plexus. It is of the Fire element.
Manipura relates to your digestive system, muscles and metabolism, as well as your self-esteem and willpower.
The goal of this chakra is to ignite your internal fire, strengthen your will to act, overcome lethargy and break through sluggishness and passivity. Indications of its malfunctions include poor digestion, diabetes and ulcers.
When in excess, this energy manifests in stubbornness, arrogance and insensitivity, while when deficient it may result in depression, introversion, heightened victim mentality and low confidence.
A balanced third chakra presents itself in a well-functioning digestive system, confidence, good self-esteem and living with playfulness, purpose and determination.
Balancing your solar plexus chakra can be done by practising energetic heat-generating yoga poses and sequences, including Sun Salutations, seated and supine spinal twists, and Bow, together with abdominal-strengthening exercises and poses, such as Boat and planks.
For this chakra, a one- to two-minute practice of Breath of Fire, which is powered from the navel and solar plexus and involves powerful, rapid and rhythmic inhalations and exhalations through the nose, is beneficial.
Breath of Fire resembles the panting of a dog but is done in an upright seated position with the mouth closed. On the inhalation, as the diaphragm descends, the abdomen relaxes, where on the exhalation, the air is forcefully expelled, causing the diaphragm to contract, and your navel and solar plexus are drawn towards the spine.
Yoga sequence for the lower chakras
- Reclined Knee to Chest (supta ardha apanasana)
- Begin by lying on your back with your legs straight. Inhale.
- As you exhale, bend your right knee and bring it in towards your chest and hold the shin with your hands.
- Keep your head and left leg on the floor.
- Hold the pose *for 8–10 breaths then release and repeat on the other side.
- Reclined Bound Angle (supta baddha konasana)
- Begin by lying supine on the floor. Bend your knees and place your feet comfortably close to your buttocks.
- Inhale, and as you exhale, allow your knees to part until you feel the stretch in your inner thighs without pushing your legs farther than comfortable. Remain in this pose for 20 breaths.
- As you exhale, close your legs in. As you inhale, open them back into the Reclined Bound Angle pose, repeating these movements, resembling “butterfly wings” linked to the breath, 5–8 times.
- Straighten your legs and rest for a minute.
- Perform 3–5 rounds of Sun Salutations (surya namaskar). Sun Salutations will help you warm up and are another way to balance your chakras; e.g. when you get into your standing fold forward, you will be expanding your root chakra; when in a plank pose, your solar plexus chakra will be involved, and when you hold your Downward Facing Dog, your sacral chakra will benefit.
- Hold Downward Facing Dog for 5 breaths at the end of each Sun Salutation.
- Downward Facing Dog (adho mukha svanasana) à High Lunge (alanasana) à Twisted Lunge (parivrtta alanasana)
- From Downward Facing Dog, step your right foot forward into High Lunge with your back heel lifted and legs active. Hold for 5–7 breaths before bringing your hands together at your heart centre and lowering onto your left knee for the Low Lunge.
- Inhale, lifting your arms up and, as you exhale, hook your left tricep over the outer thigh of your right leg.
- Make a fist with your left hand, placing the right hand on top of it and using that as a leverage to deepen the twist, lengthening your spine and side body, without collapsing your chest onto your right thigh. You can stay in the Revolved Low Lunge or on the inhale, tucking in your left toes, lift your left knee off the floor, entering Revolved High Lunge.
- Remain in the pose for 5–8 breaths, breathing deeply.
- To release, unwind, step back into Downward Facing Dog and repeat on the other side. After that, come into a standing position.
- Warrior II (virabhadrasana II)
- Step your feet wide apart and extend your arms out to the sides. Turn your right foot directly forward and turn your left foot slightly in. On your exhalation, bend your right knee deeply, aiming to bring the right thigh parallel to the floor.
- Keep your shoulders above your hips and your arms at shoulder height and parallel to the floor, palms facing down. Gaze over your right fingers, keeping the arms active.
- Stay in the pose for 5 breaths before transitioning into the next asana.
- High Plank (phalakasana)
- From Warrior II on the left side, step back into Downward Facing Dog and, on the inhale, transition into High Plank by drawing your torso forward and bringing your shoulders above the wrists, with torso parallel to the floor.
- Spread your collarbones away from the sternum and shoulder blades away from the spine and press into the bases of your index fingers.
- Keep your gaze focused and stay in the plank for 5–8 breaths before slowly lowering down onto your stomach and resting for a few breaths.
- Locust (salabhasana)
Locust Preparation A
- Lie on your stomach, chin on your mat, arms beside your body, palms facing upward close to your thighs.
- With your attention on the location of the first chakra, press the top of your left foot onto the mat. As you inhale, lift your right leg off the floor and hold it for 3–5 breaths before lowering your right leg and repeating on the other side.
Locust Preparation B
- Now begin to alternate your arm and leg lifts.
- Do 5 rounds of Locust Preparation B on each side, with your inhalation lifting the opposite arm to the leg (together with your chest), releasing on the exhale and repeating on the other side.
- Rest for a moment before entering into Locust.
- Bow (dhanurasana)
- Lying on your stomach, bend your knees and reach for your ankles. If you are unable to do so, take a belt or strap to place around the tops of both feet and hold on to.
- As you begin to inhale, lift your head, shoulders and chest, holding onto your ankles or the strap, allowing your back to arch.
- Breathe deeply and stay in this deep pose for 4–6 breaths, before taking a short rest and repeating once more.
- Reclined Big Toe (supta padangusthasana A)
- Lie supine on the floor, legs straight. On the exhale, draw your right knee to your chest, hugging it in. As you inhale, straighten the right leg, pressing your right heel towards the ceiling.
- Interlace your fingers around the back of the right thigh, or reach for the shin or right big toe.
- Alternatively, use a belt around the arch of the right foot. Holding your belt with both hands, walk your hands up the belt until you extend your elbows.
- Press your left thigh into the mat, keeping your left leg active with the toes either pointed or dorsiflexed.
- Stay in the pose for 6–8 breaths, before releasing and repeating on the other side.
- Bridge (setu bandha sarvangasana)
- Lie supine on the floor, knees bent, and place your feet under them on the floor, comfortably apart.
- On the inhale, lift your hips high but without strain, and re-adjust the width of your feet if needed.
- You can interlace your fingers underneath your back, or alternatively keep the palms facing down on the floor.
- Take 5 breaths and repeat twice more.
- Take a reclined supine twist, arms out and both knees dropping to the right side for 5 breaths, then to the left.
- Wall Dragonfly
- Begin by lying on the floor, buttocks close to the wall, legs up the wall.
- Draw your legs apart, allowing your feet to slide down the wall until the “edge finds you”, when the sensations you experience are just right — not too much, not too little. Let your muscles relax in this pose.
- You can keep your hands where comfortable or place them on your inner thighs.
- Remain in the pose for 3 minutes.
- To come out, bring your hands underneath your thighs to help you bring your legs together.
- Stay with your legs up the wall for 1–2 minutes, giving yourself time to rebound while feeling the effects of Wall Dragonfly.
Finish your practice in savasana, resting for at least 5 minutes.
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