Way back when I was fed up with being unable to get a full-time job, I did extra study and gained a teaching qualification – stupidly, really, as I knew I didn’t want to be a school teacher. Nevertheless, I did all the necessary preparation to embark on this new career, I went to “my” classroom before the beginning of term so I could have everything ready for the first day of school.
Well, Day One arrived and I was late to school because of traffic. Not a good start, but the children didn’t mind. They were just a blur of faces; I was so nervous that I couldn’t remember even one child’s name.
By the end of the first day I was hoarse – from talking?!?!
Day Two arrived and I couldn’t talk at all – so I had to phone in that I couldn’t come to work. The same on Day Three. I ended up using a whole year’s allocated sick days in the first two weeks of school, because I couldn’t speak! I went to my yoga teacher’s yoga teacher, Muktanand, who told me that my communication problem was due to nerves!
That was Vishuddhi, the fifth spinal chakra – the centre of communication.
Situated in the spine, level with the pit of the throat, Vishuddhi chakra governs the vocal chords, the larynx, the oesophagus, the thryroid and parathyroid glands, the whole neck area in general, as well as the upper arms 1. It relates to two nerve plexuses: the thyroid plexus and the brachial plexus.
At the non-physical level, Vishuddhi includes all acts of communication: speaking, rhythm, music, body language, expression of feelings.
Through Vishuddhi we express everything within us – including our laughing and crying, our love and our aggressiveness, our happiness and our anxiety. This chakra communicates our intentions and desires, our knowledge and our perceptions. So it is the communicating element, or mediator of information on all levels of being – including communicating our inner world – through words, gestures, and creative forms of expression including dance and the visual and performing arts. 2
Now we come to the symbol for this chakra. Although most commonly this chakra is thought of as blue, the yogis see Vishuddhi as purple or violet. So the symbol is of a purple/violet lotus with sixteen petals, which are said to represent the sixteen potential abilities that a human can develop. As Vishuddhi chakra is the centre of sound, the sixteen may represent the sixteen vowels of the Sanskrit alphabet. 3
The element related to Vishuddhi is ether, or space, and the animal is a white elephant. The chakra symbol also contains an image of the moon, which is symbolic of the mind 4 and the sound is HĀM (pronounced HAR-m).
With Vishuddhi operating optimally, there is an unlimited feeling of happiness and freedom that allows our skills and abilities to blossom – including a clear voice and a talent for singing or speech, as well as balanced and calm thoughts. 5
I’m sure that most people have had an experience like mine, of being so nervous that the voice stops working, or of being “tongue-tied”. I have a brother who’s a school teacher; he talks to people all day long, yet recently he and I were at a funeral and he was asked to make a speech. Now, he has made hundreds of speeches in his life, yet on this occasion, his voice stumbled and he “uhm-ed” and “ah-ed” a lot; the cat had really got his tongue that day.
Rather, Vishuddhi chakra had him “all choked up” with emotion and nerves.
The same could be said for another friend, who says that when she is trying not to hurt other people’s feelings by not telling the full truth – her throat becomes dry, and she stumbles over her words.
This brings up another important quality of Vishuddhi – truthfulness.
‘Speaking your truth’ has become a catch-cry of the New Age, but I sometimes think that some people believe this gives them carte-blanch to say whatever they ‘feel’ to anyone at any time.
We all know people with over-active throat chakras – they’re the ones who talk – and talk – and talk. They love having an audience.
On the other hand, there are many people with under-active throat chakras – people who are unable to express themselves. Maybe they stutter, or they just don’t put themselves in situations that require them to talk.
People with harmoniously-functioning Vishuddhi chakras will be able to express their feelings, thoughts and inner knowledge freely, but can also remain silent to listen to others.
To assist with harmonising your throat chakra, try these asanas:
- Shoulder pose (kandharasana)
- Cobra pose (bhujangasana)
- Flying locust pose (ardha shalabhasana)
- Camel (ushtrasana)
- Roaring lion (simhargarjanasana)
As well as chanting, meditating and the physical yogic practices, you might also like to enhance your throat chakra by:
- Singing – join a choir, or sing to the trees as you walk, cycle or drive; or if you’re too shy for that, sing in the shower.
- Dancing, or join a drumming group.
- Writing – keep a journal if you can’t think what else to write. (Many “experts” say that journal-keeping is good for all sorts of things).
- Practising walking, sitting and standing up straight – with the crown of your head uppermost, chin tucked in ever so slightly.
So when I see you in class this week, look forward to a sing-along!
1. . Dr Rishi Vivekananda, Practical Yoga Psychology (2005), Yoga Publications Trust, Bihar, India
2. Shalila Sharamon & Bodo J. Baginski, The Chakra Handbook (1997), Lotus Light Publications, Wilmot, USA.
3. Paramhans Swami Maheshwarananda, Yoga in Daily Life: The System (2000), European University Press, Vienna, Austia.
4. Paramhans Swami Maheshwarananda, Yoga in Daily Life: The System (2000).
5. Paramhans Swami Maheshwarananda, Yoga in Daily Life: The System (2000).