Aktualisiert: 25. Dez. 2020
In my second year in theatre, on the opening night of our production of Sherlock Holmes, I had a sore throat. I had been feeling just fine all day, but upon entering the theatre, swollowing became increasingly painful. I remember pacing up and down backstage in full makeup and costume, frantically sucking throat lozenges, to no avail. If anything, my throat got progressively worse, with an additional sense of nausea setting in as performace start was approaching. I clearly remember eventually standing on stage, about to open my mouth to speak my first line, and thinking: "If I don't speak, I'm going to throw up right now". So I spoke. And at the same time, both my throat ache and the nausea vanished.
As I reflected on the evening later on, I put my throat ache down to jitters, after all, it was only my second year and I was still inexperienced. Reflecting on it now though, I can see the symbolic meaning of this experience: I had words inside me that needed to be communicated, and holding them back literally made me sick. Cancelling my performance would likely not have done anything to ease my pain, it was only through speaking that I could heal my throat.
In Yoga, the throat is the seat of Vishuddhi Chakra, translated as the Throat Chakra. It serves as the conduit between ourselves and our environment and, when balanced, allows us to communicate clearly and thruthfully. However, like the other chakras, it can be physically or emotionally blocked, for example by
The "Text Neck"
Swallowing your words
Now, in order to heal and re-open the throat chakra, we need to look very carefully at the blockages and what caused them.
#1 The "Text Neck"
The term coined by Lara Heimann (@lara.heimann on Instagram), physical therapist and creator of the LYT Yoga Method, refers to the anterior tilt of the cervical spine caused by constantly looking down at either your smartphone or the keys of your laptop (If you're one of those people who don't have to see the keys to type, I salute you).
#2 Restricted Breathing
Whenever we don't breathe fully down into the belly and allow our diaphragm to move naturally, we restrict our breathing. This leads to tension in the smaller muscles of the neck and shoulders, which has a negative knock-on effect on our posture, circulation and mental clarity.
Common restrictions are
Reverse Breathing - sucking the belly in on the inhale and letting it expand on the exhale
Chest Breathing - only breathing high in the chest
Collapsed Breathing - breathing only into the chest with shoulders slumping forwards and a hunched back
As I was wandering around backstage with my sore throat, I was probably unconsciously restricting my breathing in one or all of these ways as a natural reaction to the stress I was experiencing.
#3 Swallowing your words
We've all been in situations where we've wanted to speak, but chose not to. Sometimes of course, we need to hold back in order not to hurt someone else's feelings - remember that Ahimsa (Non-violence) is Yoga's most important ethical guideline, and rightfully so. But oftentimes we stay quiet when really we should speak up for ourselves or for others. We swallow our words when we feel like we have no right to speak, and we often choose silence over speaking our emotions because we want to avoid vulnerability. The trouble is, silence has a message too, and one that you can't control. The other drawback is that all those unspoken words and emotions will start to fester inside you and contaminate all the other words you speak to others and yourself. As Audre Lorde puts it:
"You're never really a whole person if you remain silent, because there's always that one little piece inside you that wants to be spoken out, and if you keep ignoring it, one day it will just up and punch you in the mouth from the inside."
Good news is, we can learn to speak when we are afraid in the same way we have learned to work when we are tired.
#4 Breaking Promises
You've made a commitment of some kind, communicated it either verbally or in written form, but you can't stay true to it. We've all had to cancel appointments, meetings with friends, family parties or in current times, phone calls, and it's always awkward, no matter whether it's your friends or your dentist who you're letting down. That's because breaking agreements erodes trust. Anodea Judith explains this brilliantly: "Whenever we have broken agreements with someone (regardless of who caused the break), our tendency is to demean the other person, to reduce their importance in our life. Friendships that end suddenly can often be traced back to a broken agreement or an accidental betrayal that never got cleaned up."
So how can we deal with the physical an emotional blockages of our Throat Chakra?
There are Yoga poses that focus on opening the Throat Chakra, such as Cat&Cow Pose, Bridge Pose, Plow Pose, Fish Pose, Ear Pressure Pose, Revolved Side Angle Pose, and of course everyone's favorite, Savasana. Remeber though, that you can focus on a chakra of your choice in any given pose to help balance and open it.
Pranayama (Breathwork): If you are prone to clenching your muscles and restricting your breath, I would advise you to do your breathwork lying down, either in Savasana or Reclined Bound Angle Pose, with one hand on your belly and one hand on your heart. As you inhale for a count of 4 and exhale for a count of 6, pay attention to the natural movement of your chest and belly.
Have the courage to share your vision and ideas. As Anodea Judith says, "as long as your visions stay inside your head, there's no one to challenge you, criticize you, or steal your ideas. There's also noone to help you, nor can anyone offer suggestions, support, or feedback."
Speak up for yourself and for others.
Honor the principle of Ahimsa and hold back if your words might hurt someone.
Only make promises you can keep, both to others and to yourself. Consider this question asked by Deborah Adele:
Can you imagine speaking and acting so correctly that you never have to go back and apologize or make a new agreement?
If you have any experiences with a blocked Throat Chakra, I would be honored if you'd share your experience with me. I hope this post has given you food for thought as well as a perspective for healing and progress. Next week I will share my thoughts on giving and receiving feedback, another minefield that most of us struggle to navigate.