Last month, I wrote about how Yoga practice can help us communicate more effectively. This month, we’ll get more specific and take a look at the fifth chakra. The chakras exist as dynamic energy centers in the body. The fifth chakra, located in the throat, is associated with hearing and speaking the truth. Let’s turn our attention to this area of the body, which, chakra-wise, includes the neck, shoulders, mouth and jaw. The neck itself connects the mind and the body, and, let’s face it, it’s a rather small tunnel for such and important connection. Things can get stuck if there are imbalances in this chakra—and we all recognize the symptoms: sore throat, tight jaw, stiff neck and shoulders, lump in the throat, tension in the voice, grinding of the teeth. A lot of stress gets lodged in the area when communication is not flowing smoothly between the mind and the body, or between ourselves and others.
Think about how you feel when you get angry, or have a confrontation, or are in conflict. How do you feel when you are not able to express your true feelings? And how do you listen to others? Do you listen openly, without expectation or judgment, or are you formulating your response or rebuttal even as the other person speaks. How about when your body is “speaking”? Do you pay attention to a sensation that may require your attention, or do you ignore signs and just press on?
The essence of the fifth chakra is to find resonance and harmony. We can do this by speaking honestly and listening without judgment, first to ourselves. Then we can be confident that we are engaging with others in authentic communication.
Our practice first helps us to tune in to what is going on internally. Once we slow down, breathe and begin to listen, we can begin to notice. It is this attention that can begin to open up communication between the mind and the body. Further, in our practice, we can physically address these tight areas through pranayama (breath work), asana (postures), and mantra. When we breathe, breath moves through the throat on the way out and the way in. In our asana practice we can stretch, open and strengthen all of the areas associated with the fifth chakra. Mantra is also a wonderful tool, in fact, the word “mantra” translates to “tool of the mind”. The vibration of the mantra can “wake up” communication between the mind and the body.
To bring the attention to the breath with mantra, you can try the “So Hum” mantra. The yogic mantra "so hum" reflects the sound of the breath and also carries a contemplative meaning: "I am that" (so = "I am" and hum = "that"). Here, "that" refers to all of creation, the one breathing us all. Just find a place where you can sit quietly and begin to follow the breath, in and out. Once you have a sense of the breath flowing, silently say “so” on the inhale and “hum” on the exhale. You will notice the sounds you are saying reflect the sounds of the breath itself.
Working with the mantra is a beautiful way to begin to tune in to yourself. And, as always, really tune in and listen to your body, mind, energy, and emotions in your practice. Once you become more comfortable listening to yourself, communicating with others may come more naturally … but more on that next month.
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Lisa Feder is a Yoga Instructor, Personal Trainer and Corporate Wellness Consultant. Read more