In so many ways, the human social experience today is different than it has ever been. One of the most interesting developments is how the internet serves as a platform for public expression. It enables individuals to broadcast their voices to huge audiences they could never assemble in person. If we were to view this phenomenon through an esoteric lens, we might say that it feeds a lot of energy to the throat chakra.
The fifth chakra, called Vishuddha, is located at the level of the throat and it is the center of the voice. Through the throat, we are able to emanate energy in the form of sound waves. This energy center relates therefore to communication, resonance, expression, and – through our words – choice, consent, agreement, and creation.
What happens when we massively empower this center through technology? Well, there’s a yogic explanation. When a person taps into a potent source of energy (whether we call it Kundalini or a Twitter account with a million followers), both one’s strengths and weaknesses are going to be amplified. So, it’s better to have cleaned house first. (It’s why the once-mandatory first two “limbs” of ashtanga yoga are about self-purification through practices such as non-violence, introspection, study, and honesty.) If there are any blockages, pathologies, or fiercely hidden aspects of the shadow-self, these are likely to become problems – especially as one’s sense of legitimacy and self-importance are inflated by the size of one’s audience.
Structurally, Vishuddha is also associated with the thyroid, larynx, mouth, jaw, neck vertebrae, and sometimes also the ears, arms, and hands. The association of the ears and hands with this chakra probably stems from the connection between listening and speaking, and the way we use our hands to communicate.
When this chakra is balanced and open, some sources say, we freely express the truth, we uplift with our voice, and we refrain from complaining, gossiping, or degrading. We harmonize with others when in communication. We listen to what others say and to what we ourselves say. We are able to hear other points of view without reacting. We are creative with our literal and artistic voice.
Author Caroline Myss has a rather unique take on this chakra, teaching that it is the center of choice, since it is through our word that we consent and agree. Empowerment at this level of our being, she writes, gives us a sense of personal authority, it allows us to see the role of choice in everything that happens, and it lets us see the consequences of our choices. The essence of this chakra, Myss says, is faith. Our choices are an expression of who and what we put our faith in, and how we thus invest our energy in our commitments. Surrender of personal will to Divine Will, she states, unburdens us of the karmic and psychological impacts of these choices.
While the heart chakra, associated with air, has a close connection to the breath, the throat chakra, too, is related to the breath. In Aghora II: Kundalini, teacher Vimalananda says: “You’ve noticed, I presume, that in times of great anger, at the moment of orgasm, and in other intensely emotional situations your breathing becomes faster and more forceful, and your mind becomes more chaotic? Such breathing is useless for sadhana [spiritual practice], for which you must have a conditioned mind. Yogis practice pranayama [breathing exercises] because they know that control of the breath causes control of the mind. The opposite is also true: whatever controls the mind controls the breathing.” Thus, learning to slow and deepen one’s breathing is a valuable mechanism for quieting the mind.
Author Gurudashan Kaur Khalsa (mostly paraphrasing Anodea Judith) wrote: “Each step upward [through the chakras] decreases boundaries and separation. Communication can be seen as a symbolic system occupying the meeting point between the abstract and manifested idea. It formulates our thoughts into controlled physical vibrations. This creates manifestations on the physical plane. As we name the things and concepts on the physical plane, it prepares them for use by consciousness. The fifth chakra occupies a crucial place in the gateway between mind and body. It mirrors the transformative properties of fire, a medium in the transition from one dimension to another.” She claims that when we attain total purification of the voice chakra, the distracting nature of the world and our senses will no longer be a problem for us, and that we will seek only knowledge that is true and beyond the limitations of time and culture.
Besides using the voice with consciousness and intention, chanting and singing are considered to help open and balance this chakra. You can try chanting the sound ham (it should have a long ahh sound, so it sounds like “hum” rather than the meat that comes from a pig). This is called the seed mantra of this chakra (or more specifically, of it’s associated element of space or “ether”).
You can also try the following meditation: Sit cross-legged. Lay one palm on top of the other palm, both palms facing down, and bend your elbows to hold your hands right in front of your chest, thumbs toward you. As you inhale through your nose, lift your chin up as high as it will go, then keep it there as you hold your breath for as long as you can. As you exhale, allow your chin to drop to your chest. Imagine that the breath is entering and exiting through the hollow right above your sternum. Repeat for three minutes.
The voice is a powerful faculty. It can be used for tremendous good or terrible harm. This week I encourage you to bring more attention to how you use your voice and what the repercussions are. How few words does it take to uplift someone? What happens when you share a complaint? Does it spur positive change? Can you be clever about how you present your ideas, such that they enhance your community?
Dr. Peter Borten
- Johari, H. (1987). Chakras. Energy Centers of Transformation. Destiny Books.
- Judith, A. (2004). Eastern Body, Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System as a Path to the Self. Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts.
- Judith, A. (1999). Wheels of Life: The Classic Guide to the Chakra System. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications.
- Khalsa, G. K. (1991). Energy Maps: A Journey Through the Chakras. La Crescenta, CA: CyberScribe.
- Myss, C. M. (1996). Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing. New York: Three Rivers Press.
- Svoboda, R. E. (1995). Aghora II: Kundalini. Albuquerque, NM: Brotherhood of Life Publishing.
- Wallis, C. D. (2013). Tantra Illuminated: The Philosophy, History, and Practice of a Timeless Tradition. Petaluma, CA: Mattamayūra Press.
- White, J. W. (1990). Kundalini, Evolution, and Enlightenment. New York: Paragon House.
- Woodroffe, J. G., & P. (1931). The Serpent Power: Being the Shat-chakra-nirūpana and Pādukā-panchaka; Two Works on Laya yoga. Madras: Ganesh.