So we’ve arrived at Chakra No 5, the Throat – with its obvious location at the base of the neck, and the colour Blue.
This Sanskrit name Vishuddha means “pure”, “clear”, “virtuous", and is sometimes translated as meaning purification/cleansing.
The element is Ether or Space, so it hosts the elements of the lower 4 Chakras – earth, water, fire and air.
It is linked to communication and the use of the voice and the theory is that once the lower Chakras have been balanced, this leads to clear verbal expression of:
Stability – Manipura (Earth)
Creativity – Swadhistana (Water)
Wilfulness – Manipura (Fire)
Love – Anahata (Air)
Prana – our life force - can flow freely through the throat and the expression of the inner self can find balance.
This all sounds great but is an ideal case scenario, and as we know from our exploration of the previous 4 Chakras, they are not always open, or open in sequential order.
If your Throat Chakra is underactive this can manifest as a fear of speaking, difficulty in expressing your thoughts, shyness and being timid, social anxiety, inhibited creativity and inconsistency in your speech and actions.
If it is overactive it can make a person critical and judgmental, shrill, loud and domineering - individuals who talk over, yell and shout at others and just don’t listen. They just talk too much and I’m sure we’ve all met someone like this before right?! They may also have a tendency to spit out hurtful words and just don’t know when to stop in an argument.
A balanced Throat Chakra finds a person able to express themselves clearly, honestly and with confidence. You will have a clear speaking voice and aren’t afraid to talk. You have balanced and calm thoughts which you express as appropriate. As well as being able to speak up, you are also able to listen to others and their unique voice.
Blockages in the energy flow through the Throat Chakra can present themselves physically as problems with the Thyroid gland, throat, jaw and mouth. Think of a time perhaps when you have had to “swallow” your feelings – you can feel a huge lump in your throat and it can physically hurt. Continual suppression of your voice, and thereby your emotions, can lead to tension that mutates into a physical issue.
We can bring openness to our throats and activate this Chakra through singing, chanting and humming – so thereby releasing any tension that may be there due to an imbalance, whatever the original cause may be.
We can also bring openness to this Chakra through using yoga asana (poses) that open the area such as this Fish Pose – where we take the head back and free the Throat.
Next post we move up to the more “Spiritual” Chakras and arrive at the Third Eye – Ajna – linked to intuition and super consciousness.
Anahata is a Sanskrit word that translates as "Unstruck Sound", so sound that is made without any two things striking, meaning the sound of the heart, which throbs, beats or vibrates with the very pulse of life.
This Chakra is symbolic of unconditional love, compassion and joy and becoming love itself. I also like to see this Chakra as being not just love that we give to others – romantic love, love for our family and friends, and kindness and compassion in general to other beings - but also being open to receive love which for some can be a harder thing to do...it can feel more comfortable at times to just keep giving!
This Chakra is said to be the bridge between the lower, human Chakras – Muladhara (earth, basic needs and being rooted), Swadhistana (water, fertile creativity, sexual and self expression), and Manipura (“Fire in the belly”, outward energy, confidence, career); and the higher Chakras of spirituality and intuition which we will come to over the next few weeks.
The Chakra point is said to be located at the heart centre (rather than the actual location of the heart to the left), the colour is Green and the Bija Mantra is “YAM”. The element is air which like love, is within and all around us.
The air element can be observed as having a connection to the air mechanism connected to the heart – the lungs. So, interestingly, underactive heart Chakra is sometimes linked to breathing problems such as Asthma. But for now, lets focus more on the emotional connections:
An underactive heart Chakra can manifest as loneliness, shyness, being overly critical towards yourself and others, holding grudges, inability to give or receive freely, suspicion and fear, especially in friendships and romantic relationships.
An overactive heart Chakra can present itself as loving indiscriminately, lack of proper boundaries in friendships and intimate relationships, tolerating too much from others, and co-dependency.
If your Anahata is opened and balanced, you will naturally feel love and compassion for others and allow people to be who they are, instead of attempting to mould them to your expectations. A person with an open Heart Chakra is altruistic and respects others. People around them will notice an easy going peace about the person, no matter what else may be going on in the room.
We can cultivate a heart centred quality of awareness in all of our asanas, but especially through practicing backbends, which stimulate this heart opening. Physically, back bends strengthen the back, and are stimulating so can sometimes give you a strong “rush” afterwards and be quite freeing. However, some people find that backbends make them uncomfortable emotionally so shy away from the feelings that backbends can trigger.
From a physical perspective, my experience personally and through teaching is that if you are tight in the back of the body – yes I’m talking about you pesky hamstrings – you generally find back-bending somewhat easy, and vice versa.
Depending on the type of backbend, they can be very strong so you need to go easy, especially if you have any weakness or sensitivity in the lower back. However, with continued, controlled practice they will help to build strength.
1) Bridge pose - Setu Bandhasana. A good, basic backbend that most people can manage and one day might lead to number 3...
2) Bow pose - Dhanusrasana. This is strong, but if you are able to get into it without straining your back (or your breath...) it feels pretty damn amazing!
3) Upward Facing Bow - Urdhva Dhanurasana. This is clearly not for the faint "hearted" but if you have the physical strength and the flexibility in the back and the shoulders, this will truly make you feel alive! If not, just stick with number 1!
Next we arrive at the Throat Chakra – using our voice to express the element of sound, through chanting and throat opening poses.
We started our journey in Muladhara chakra at the base of the spine, to root and earth by establishing grounding in our yoga asanas, and awareness of our pelvis, legs and feet. Then we travelled up to Swadhistana, a couple of inches under the navel – water. Creativity and moving emotions which we awakened with flowing movements in our practice.
Now we arrive at Chakra 3:
Manipura - “The city of Jewels” (Mani, “gems”; Pura “town”).
This Chakra is located at the Solar Plexus – and its element is Fire. So this Chakra is all about outward energy – power and heat manifesting as confidence and self-awareness.
It is traditionally masculine and relates to personal power – going out into the world after establishing our grounding at Muladhara, then finding our sexual and self-expression at Swadhistana…now we go out and get s**t done with the aid of Manipura!
On a physical level Manipura Chakra is connected to the digestive system and the adrenals, so controls our energy balance. It fans and regulates the “digestive fire” (known as Agni) and it makes an important contribution to a stable and healthy constitution. It is also connected to the abdominal muscles.
If your Manipura is in balance you have good confidence and self-esteem, you are courageous and assertive without being forceful, and have a sense of openness. You are going out into the world to follow your dreams, finding your career or vocation, and meeting people and socialising.
If it is underactive you may fade from action, avoid making decisions, question yourself, and be timid and shy.
If you have too much energy through your Manipura you might just possibly have anger issues (too much fire), be domineering, excessively competitive, insensitive, and arrogant. Now I’m sure that doesn’t apply to ANY of you lovely yogis of course! But you have probably met someone throughout your life that meets that description. And they probably need to get their raging selves to a Yoga class pronto (but please don’t give them my number!).
The colour of this Chakra is Yellow and there are also mantras known as “Bija” associated with each of the Chakras and this one is “RAM”. Mantras are said to hold a special sound vibration and this can help with your Chakra awareness/awakening.
Good asanas for awakening this Chakra are core strengtheners such as Navasana (boat pose) - fire up those abs and build strength! and twists to stimulate your digestion and your Agni.
Next Chakra is Anahata - the heart...
In my last post we made an enquiry into the root Chakra – Muladhara, which was earthy and grounding.
Next we arrive at Chakra No 2 – Swadhistana, the Sacral Chakra.
The natural progression of the energy moving up through the Chakra system is that after it makes it through Muladhara – basic human needs such as food and housing - it comes to Swadhistana.
This Chakra is roughly located 1-2 inches below the navel centre and on a physical level it is concerned with pleasure, sexuality, and is connected to the reproductive organs. So it is all about creativity…both biologically and artistically!
It is the water element so just like the free flowing nature of water, it’s always changeable and definitely not static like Muladahara (Earth) is.
It’s about emotions too – emotion = Energy in motion.
It’s connected to Lunar energy – see the Swadhistana symbol and the crescent moon at the base so traditionally feminine energy.
Another way to think of it could be the fluctuations of the female hormones throughout a month – the physical and emotional changes that happen throughout the menstrual cycle - and indeed a large proportion of her life.
If your Swadhistana is low/blocked there may be a loss of creativity, low sexual energy, dullness and depression. There may also be attachment issues, guilt, timidity, emotional volatility, hypersensitivity, and trust issues. It can also manifest as being disconnected and cold.
If it is overactive a person might be too caught up in pleasure (e.g. sex, eating, drinking, drugs…) and/or be needy and emotionally dependant on others.
That all sounds like a barrel of laughs right?!
However, if it is balanced and the energy is flowing as it should you will experience vitality, wellness, be open to pleasure and joy, emotionally free, and also be able to express yourself creatively.
The water element is also connected to dance so think about watching a belly dancer…freedom of this Chakra in action! There is something so enchanting and freeing about inhibited movement. So just try and dance like no-one is watching...remember to close your curtains first though :)
Regardless of whether your Swadhistana might be identified as being under or over active, we can cultivate energy flow into this watery Chakra through our yoga practice. It is connected to the sacrum and the hips so yoga asanas that open the hips are beneficial, as are flowing movements.
Next week we arrive at Manipura Chakra at the solar plexus – fire-y sun energy...hot hot hot!
Yogis believe that energy channels run through the body and these are called Nadis. There are said to be 72,000 of these within each human body! These Nadis move the energy through the body with the intention of ultimately moving the energy upwards and through the energy junctions located in the spine or “Chakras”. The word Chakra means “wheel” and these chakras are said to be spinning wheels of energy.
There are 7 chakras starting at the base of the spine, moving up through the spine, with the 7th and final chakra being located at the crown of the head – if the energy makes it up here you are very spiritual and may even achieve enlightenment!
One of the intentions of our yoga practice is to firstly start to enable energy to flow freely through the body. There may be blocks in the nadis, in which case the energy can’t move as it should. Think of it like a fine electrical wire with a kink in it – the electricity can’t flow freely. Reminds me of ALL my Apple chargers…!
So our yoga practice starts to straighten out the kinks and the energy starts to flow in the proper direction. It will arrive at the first chakra - Muladhara, the root.
Muladhara is located at the base of the spine. The colour is red – interestingly the chakra colours are the same as the colours of the rainbow – and the element is earth. So this chakra is concerned with basic human needs – food, shelter, livelihood, and security and is the raw, static energy of life. It is said to form the border between human and animal consciousness and linked to the unconscious mind.
If Muladhara chakra is out of balance perhaps because of life circumstance beyond your control such as illness, worrying about having a job, paying bills, or where you can live, you will feel very un-rooted. This makes it hard to focus on anything else – I think we’ve probably all been at that place at one point or another in our lives, or maybe you are currently experiencing this feeling. At the other end of the spectrum if this chakra is overactive you may become impatient, and over materialistic and too rooted – heavy and stagnant.
If your Muladhara is balanced and open you feel grounded and at ease.
We can cultivate and establish a sense of Muladhara through our yoga practice despite what is happening externally. This chakra is connected physically to the pelvis, legs and feet – so yoga asanas that ground us are beneficial, such as mountain pose (Tadasana).
These type of poses do feel very earthy so can actually also be quite cooling. I like to compare it to when an animal such as an elephant or pig bathes in mud to cool off.
In my Yoga classes in London we have been exploring this chakra for the past week of classes as we start a 7 week journey through the chakra system. This week we move onto Swadhistana - water. If you are based in North London join me for a class!