Dear Beautiful Yogi,
Now that the holidays are behind us, I am continuing the journey up the chakras. This week we are onto the fifth chakra!
The fifth energy center in the human body is called Vishuddhi Chakra. Vishuddhi means “purification” and is located in the throat. As we rise up through the chakra system, the energy centers become less dense and increasingly subtle. The element of the fifth chakra is ether or space. It is the lightest and least physical of the 5 elements. It’s seed (bija) sound is HAM and its color is blue. Even though this chakra may seem more vague or esoteric, I want to offer you three tools for developing your awareness and understanding of this energy center.
This chakra relates directly to communication. Think about what happens when we speak. Our words and the tone of our voice travels through space to deliver a message. This vibration is how we communicate and it isn’t just what we say but how we say it. Sound and vibration are therefore a specific function of the throat chakra. Developing our capacity for good, positive and clear communication is central to a healthy throat chakra. We achieve balance when we know what to say and when, as well as what not to say. Neither over-talking nor under-expressing ourselves are healthy traits!
- The first tool we can use to develop harmony in the throat chakra is mantra. Mantra is sound vibration. Mantra expressed out loud is chanting! Sanskrit mantras each have a unique energy quality and positively vibrate throughout the entire energy body. You can start with simple mantras like Om or Om Shanti Om. You can also simply use the seed sound for the throat: HAM. Try sitting comfortably in a chair or on the floor with the spine tall and aligned. Focus for a few moments on your breath. Then begin to chant the mantra of choice out loud, taking your time with each repetition. You can do this for several minutes continuing to chant out loud, or eventually you can repeat the mantra internally, silently in your mind. Do this daily.
- The physical location of vishuddhi chakra is in the throat, so postures that involve the neck help us gain access and awareness of this energy center. Therefore, the second tool is practicing the pose shoulder stand. Shoulder stand is a particularly good posture for building awareness of the neck and throat region as it flexes the neck and engages jalandara bandha (the chin lock). When we bring the head and neck into this position (neck flexion with the chest staying open), we build energy in the throat chakra. It is important to note when practicing this pose that we must maintain the natural lordotic (concave) curvature of the neck. The chest moves towards the chin without trying to tuck the chin and flatten the neck. (Blankets are highly recommended for most people.) I would suggest working with an experienced teacher to learn full shoulder stand so you know how many blankets you need, and you learn how to protect your neck. It’s also important to be warmed up and well prepared before attempting this pose. Check out my tutorial on shoulder stand.
Another option is bridge pose. It produces the same effect without you going all the way upside down and putting weight on the neck. Just as in shoulder stand, we want to maintain the natural curvature of the neck while practicing this pose, and keep all sides of the neck soft, relaxed and free of tension.
- The last tool for balancing the throat chakra is simple. It’s learning to align your head and neck as you move about daily life. It may be simple, but it's not necessarily easy! With modern living, we are constantly pushing our heads forward, straining the neck and throwing off our natural spinal alignment. Our heads are heavy and the highly mobile and delicate vertebrae of the neck were not designed to carry the head forward. They were designed to hold a scull sitting directly on top. As often as possible (especially if you work at a computer each day), remind yourself to adjust your posture: Align your shoulders back with your ears, gently draw the chin straight back towards the throat and lift the tips pf the ears straight up towards the sky. Observe how all sides of your neck become long and soft and your head rests effortlessly on top of your spine. Truly, you cannot overdo this, as it is your natural spinal alignment. It also aligns you for optimal energy flow.
Build your awareness of the vishuddhi chakra by monitoring your communication, chanting a simple mantra each day and staying mindful of how you hold your head and neck. When the vishuddhi chakra is functioning well, communication is clear, kind, effortless and respectful.