By Nkechi Njaka. Photography by Ashley Batz.
the basic cause, source, or origin of something.
an upward movement; an instance of becoming higher."the bird has a display flight of steep flapping rises
an increase in amount, extent, size, or number
Root to Rise— finding intention and purpose.
We hear it a lot in yoga— Root to Rise.
I imagine that the instructor’s intention is for all students to build solid poses from the ground up— to feel firmly planted and to be able to lengthen and expand from there. Of course, there are so many ways to apply this in other areas of our life as practitioners and human beings.
To root to rise, we must first establish a well-intentioned foundation for the practice. That means, we must pay careful attention to how we plant our feet, hands, forearms—whatever is connected to the earth. That is the seed of your posture. How you place your body in space directly affects your pose’s ability to grow and expand.
Often when I am guiding a meditation sit, or I take my seat in my own practice, the first thing that is important for me is a stability in my sense of groundedness. I find my sense of connection to the earth by noticing my sits bones connected to my cushion or chair. And from there I am able to lengthen the spine. By lengthening the spine, I’m able to create more space in the belly, ribs and chest. As a result, there’s more room to feel the rise and fall of the breath. As more space is created with breath, more expansion happens.
We can also think of this analogy in the way we think of plants. First, a seed must be planted in soil. The soil nurtures the seed; the soil is the earth— a foundation. And from there, the roots grow and eventually the seed begins to expand and rise into whatever plant it is meant to be fully self expressed.
Once our foundation is planted, we are so much more easily able to tend to it. We are the roots that grow.
When a woman rises up in glory, her energy is magnetic and her sense of possibility contagious.
Being grounded means feeling safe in that which supports you.
One of my yoga teachers is in an Iyengar practitioner. There is a mantra that was always said in class that I would find myself hearing outside of the practice that seem to make everything all right. My teacher would say throughout the class in a stern voice “As long as you act with intention, do not be concerned with the outcome.”
I see our intention as a way of checking in with ourselves. It has everything to do with what we believe in and what makes up our values. It is not just the thing you do at the beginning of the yoga practice. Our intentions serve as the north star and guide towards our purpose.
Once our intention is set, we are so much more easily able to return to it.
Anytime when we are feeling challenged, pulled in opposing directions, spread too thin, or triggered, this is the perfect opportunity to set an intention or to check in with the intention that was there all along.
My intention here is to love.
My intention here is to be of service.
My intention here is to do my best.
My intention here is to heal.
My intention here is to love myself no matter what.
While it sounds incredibly simple, the practice itself is not one that is easy. I find myself saying this all the time and reminding myself even more— Who we are being moment to moment is our purpose. Our purpose is not future decision, a tenure goal or vision we created to convince ourselves that we are only worthy if we work hard enough for it. It is none of that. Our purpose is simply to exist in love. We can shift the quality of our existence and the meaning of our existing as we navigate each season of our life, but it will always remain the same. LOVE.
Nkechi is a neuroscientist, choreographer and meditation teacher. She has spent the majority of her life investigating the relationship between the brain and the body and has always felt the significance of their integration. Through her work as a neuroscientist as well as a professional modern dancer + choreographer, she discovered that mindfulness and creativity are crucial for sustaining individual and global wellbeing. She attended Scripps College in Claremont, CA where she majored in neuroscience and dance and went on to complete an MSc. in Neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh. Nkechi Deanna Njaka is the founder of NDN lifestyle studio, co-founder of Sitting Matters, and a 2017 YBCA Truth Fellow.