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Bridging Body, Breath, Spirit: February 2006

Neck/Throat Chakra: To Speak and Hear the Truth

I enjoy exploring yogic themes weekly in my classes with students, for application to practice and to life. We recently completed a 7-week cycle exploring in turn the seven "chakras" or "wheels" in Sanskrit: centers of energy with challenges and affirmations, life issues and colors and sounds associated with each.

Vissudha, meaning "purification", is the throat/neck chakra. It connects, like a bridge or tunnel, the head and body. It governs our expressive faculties and develops from age 7-12, an age when children's talents and gifts often blossom dramatically. The color is beautiful turquoise, bridging green and blue, and the "yantra" or visual image is of a white oval, poised between collarbone and roof of mouth, delicate, powerful, full of life and potential, like the egg shape it mirrors. The sound that energizes this chakra is a vocalized "Hum" -- the initial "h" sound clearing the throat passage, opening a tunnel or bridge for clear communication. The affirmation "I have the right to speak and hear the truth" describes both directions: truth-in, truth-out, the ear and throat passages being both physically and energetically linked. We've all felt something "stuck in our craw" or "won't go down" when being asked to "swallow" a lie; or felt the "frog in the throat" when we suppress our own voice or refrain from speaking a truth we want to express.

Here is a quote a fellow actress gave me years ago that describes beautifully the prerogatives of the throat chakra:

"There is vitality, a life force. A quickening that is translated through you into action and because there is only one of you in all time. This expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine: how good it is ... nor how valuable it is ... nor how it compares with other expression. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly. To keep the channel open...."
Martha Graham to Agnes De Mille

In our practice, we protect the throat/neck chakra and the cervical spine by remembering the neck as a smooth, even extension of the rest of the spine. Use the image of the white oval egg to avoid crunching the neck back, forward or to the side, letting it be a smooth extension of the entire backbone, both in asana practice and in the daily postures of life:telephoning, typing, walking, talking.

For further exploration into chakras, see Anodea Judith for fascinating tie-ins to psychology, my favorite being "Eastern Body, Western Mind". Very user-friendly and accessible is Alan Finger's new book, "Chakra Yoga" which includes a meditation CD.

Alan Finger's new book "Chakra Yoga" with meditation CD


Space, Air: Caring for our Throat and neck

When I was a teen my doctor advised my mom to have my tonsils removed, as my throat tissues were particularly furrowed and prone to harboring bacteria that can breed infection. Now as a mom myself, I know children who have similarly infection-prone ear canals that cause frequent ear infections. Well, my mother apologized all my adult life that she didn't get around to that tonsillectomy, because I regularly contracted tonsillitis, laryngitis, strep throat or other throat infections every year of my life.

In the first 7 years of my yoga practice I still endured throat infections but fewer than before. In the past 3 years they are a thing of the past. I think that is due to a whole combination of causes. I've practiced more meditation, prayer, asana, and pranayama. I've felt renewed energy from simple chiropractic adjustments. I've realized that every way in which we free our self-expression is a throat-healthy practice. At the first sign of lowered immunity (over-extending, fatigue, throat, ear or head discomfort) I dose myself with fresh citrus fruits or that fizzy Airborne tablet loaded with antioxidants and electrolytes and vitamin C, and look for rest opportunities.

But perhaps it's my perspective that's changed the most. From the perspective of Ayurveda, the ancient Indian holistic health science, I am caring for my throat and neck chakra by all of the following: I minimize the drying effects of the elements of air and space, known in Ayurveda as "vata" dosha, the dominant imbalance of the winter season. Instead, I stoke up the elements of fire, earth, water, to rein in the dominant air element. I slather moisturizing lotions on my skin. I lubricate the throat with soups and warm beverages. I protect head and neck with soft, warm neck and head coverings. I eat foods stoked with fire, earth and water elements, such as stew, chunky soups, hot porridge, omelettes. I embrace colors and textures reflecting those elements, and a more grounded, slower quality of activity. I seek restorative poses whenever I can, in classes/workshops or on my own. And I seek music that grounds and calms. Look for the lesser known Restorative classes in your studio's schedule as well as the special delicious 2-hour workshops. For a guide to a home restorative practice try Judith Lasater's book "Relax and Renew".

Judith Lasater, Guru of Restorative Yoga


Aligning the Rainbow - Spinal Adjustments

My favorite chiropractic office right on 5th Avenue and 45 St. has mellow music playing and a darkened room containing super relaxing leather reclining massage chairs with a host of timed massage programs you choose from. A pulled lower back grew worse with a week of continued work and living, until I hobbled in to Dr. Sid's office and got up from his adjustment feeling like I got "plugged back in". Then, the mellow music and massage chair! Ahhh! They don't just tweak, either; they will educate you. A lovely place to be and to go.

Esprit Wellness Center and Dr. Sid


Bridges of Spirit

Yoga means Union, its Sanskrit root "Yuj" being the same as our own English verb "to yoke". The union it seeks is manifold: uniting body to soul, uniting Self to Spirit, uniting truth-seekers on diverse faith paths. It is my aim to be such a bridge also. The following are a few New York City sacred places of beauty and healing and replenishment, oases that have been uniting, healing bridges to Spirit for myself and others. I offer them humbly and with gratitude, knowing that all seeds sent out with love do ultimately land where needed, somewhere, sometime.

Sacred Center NY - Spirit-filled Interfaith Worship

Self-Realization Fellowship - Paramahansa Yogananda's NYC Temple

St. Bartholomew's Church, Park/50th - radical welcome, healing prayer at Sunday services at 9, 11, and 7 o'clock

The Parish of Calvary in NYC - Alpha Course, experiencing the love and power of the Holy Spirit


My Chakra Tuning Workshop coming in June to Yoga Works!

Chakras are hot! Our Ishta guru, Alan Finger has his new book out, Paul Grilley has a new DVD soon to be available. I've been teaching them in my weekly classes for 2-3 years now and am creating a two-hour Chakra Tuning Workshop flow for a Sat. or Sun. in June, 1:15-3:15 at Yoga Works East Side, 1319 Third Avenue. We originally planned it for late March but the date rushed up fast, and studio and family schedules conflicted to make it more likely a mid-June date. We will combine asana, breathwork, mantras and yantras, meditations and even restorative, for a luscious rainbow tour through the seven stations of our bejeweled chakra necklace! Stay "tuned" for further notice! Open to all levels.

Yoga Works New York - East Side Studio


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Please feel free to forward my e-newsletter to any friends you think may enjoy it by using the handy "forward" option below; please also feel free to "unsubscribe" below, or to respond to me with any comments by replying to this email. I do not share my email lists with any other entities. Peace on your path... Mary

Alan Finger "Chakra Yoga" book+CD

Anodea Judith, Chakras/Psychology

Judith Lasater, Restorative Yoga

Dr. Sid, Esprit Wellness Center

Yoga Works New York

Sacred Center-Interfaith Spirituality

Yogananda's SRF - NYC
Alpha at Calvary Church
St. Bartholomew's Church

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