Yoga and the Chakras: Focus on the Throat Chakra
Part of the practice of yoga is recognizing the chakras, which are a fundamental aspect of achieving inner peace and balance. Chakra is the Sanskrit word for ‘wheel’ and there are seven chakras arranged vertically in the body from the base of the spine to the top of the head. Chakras are thought of as spinning vortexes of energy that, when balanced, lead to higher consciousness and peace.
The Throat Chakra (Vishuddha Chakra)
This chakra is located on the center of the throat on the bundle of nerves close to the spine. It is associated with communication, creativity, faith, truthfulness, and taking responsibility for your own needs. Vishuddha in Sanskrit, the throat chakra is a white lotus flower with 16 purple petals. Within this shape is a downward-facing blue triangle. The circle of white represents the full moon, and the downward-facing blue triangle represents the element ether.
Blue, or sky-blue, is the color most commonly associated with the throat chakra. Because of this chakra, in Hinduism, the color blue encourages and increases communication. Many yoga practitioners wear blue clothing, focus on blue symbols during meditation, and practice yoga outside under a blue sky to help balance and open the throat chakra.
Hearing is also closely related to the throat chakra, which fosters positive communication. Even for those people who cannot hear and use sign language to communicate, hands are considered part of the physical part of the throat chakra.
Physiologically, the throat chakra is associated with the throat (trachea, esophagus), glands (thyroid, thalamus, and hypothalamus), teeth, and gums. Also, because it also governs the vocal chords, singing and chanting are common methods of opening the throat chakra. The power this chakra has over shoulders, arms, and hands also makes painting, sculpting, and writing popular methods of balancing the vishuddha chakra.
An unbalanced throat chakra is associated with many physical dysfunctions, some of them severe: sore throat, stiff neck, swollen glands, mouth ulcers, grinding of the teeth, and hearing problems. Also: difficulty making decisions, expressing yourself, being creative, accepting criticism, maintaining a strong will, and addiction are all psychological issues that may arise from an unbalanced or blocked throat chakra.
Conversely, a person with a balanced vishuddha chakra is creative and expressive, content, centered, a conscious listener, engages in constructive communication, and exhibits positive self expression.
Asana for Vishuddha
Here are three asana that will help you to open and balance the throat chakra.
Fish Pose (Matysasana)
The Matysasana opens the chest and throat, stimulating the vishuddha chakra. It helps relieve upper respiratory congestion, drains and opens the sinuses. The glands and muscles in the throat, thyroid and thymus, are also stretched and opened.
How to do it: This pose requires you to lie down on your back, with your legs straight and your feet together. Place your hands, with palms down, underneath your thighs. On the inhale, arch your back and drop your head back (so that the top of your head is on the floor). Rest your weight on your elbows and exhale. Breathe deeply while in the position and keep your torso relaxed.
Supported Shoulder Stand (Salamba Sarvangasana)
This pose vitalizes the vishuddha chakra as oxygen-enriched blood flows to the brain and tranquilizes the mind. The nerves running from the neck to the brain are toned and overall circulation throughout the body is improved.
How to do it: Start by lying down on your back and lift your hips off the floor. Bring your legs up, over and beyond your head. Lift your back off the floor and move your legs further beyond your head. Straighten your spine so your back is straight and move your hands toward your back. Then, place your arms against your upper back (off the floor at this point) and move your hands as close to your shoulder blades as you can. Push your back upwards with your hands. Lift one leg at a time so they are both straight up in the air. Use your shoulders and pelvis to support your weight. Breathe deeply and find your balance.
Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
This pose stretches the front of the body (chest, abdomen, and quadriceps) and improves spinal flexibility. The pressure on the shoulders stimulates the throat chakra.
How to do it: Begin by coming up onto your knees (they will form a 90 degree angle). Bring your hands up the side of your body and open your chest. Reach your hands back one at a time. Grab your left ankle with your left hand, and grab your right ankle with your right hand. Bring your hips forward so that they are over your knees. On the inhale, lift your hips, arch your back, and push your abdominals forward. Let your head come back and open your throat and chest. Hold this pose for 15 to 30 seconds. To come out of the pose, slowly place hands on your lower back. For an extra challenge, try to grab the opposite ankles while in the pose.