The Mysteries in the Throat

Have you ever had a lump in your throat? Have you ever carried one around with you until it got so heavy that you almost cried when the barista at the coffee shop got your order wrong? I have.

The throat is a fascinating place in the human body. We hold an incredible amount of tension in the jaw, throat, and neck, and for many of us, this is the first place stress manifests itself. I know I’m having a stressful week when my partner wakes up to the terrifying sound of my teeth grinding.

In our yoga practice, we have an opportunity to see the body as more than just a vehicle for our brains. We understand that, in many ways, our physical bodies are manifestations of our inner selves. When something happens in life, we feel it in the body (they are called “feelings,” after all, not “thinkings”), and sometimes, even once we’ve come to a logical conclusion and taken rational steps to deal with it, we still carry an echo in our flesh and bones of whatever happened to us.

The chakras represent a vocabulary for understanding the relationship between the physical and the spiritual/emotional. We have seven main chakras, or energy centres, starting at the root of the spine and moving all the way up to the crown, floating just above the head. Each energy centre is related to a specific physical place and emotional resonance.

On this chakra map, the throat represents self-expression. The throat, neck, jaw, and ears house our creativity, our ability to listen, and, literally, our “yes” and our “no.” Often, when the throat gets tight, when the neck twinges, or the jaw locks up, there is something that needs to be voiced. We want to speak up, but don’t know what to say or, perhaps, feel silenced and powerless. Maybe we did speak up, and just don’t feel like we’ve been heard.

Yoga practice is an excellent way to do some self-exploration around what might be stuck in that throat lump. Shoulderstand and fish pose are excellent for stimulating the throat chakra, but any practice involving extra attention to the neck and jaw can really help. The next time you go to a class with a teacher you trust, for example, just keep your awareness on what it feels like in your throat. Move your head and neck around in different postures, even if you are not specifically doing neck stretching postures. Notice if you are clenching your jaw, and exhale out your mouth often: a lion’s breath or a sigh with some sound can be very stimulating to the throat chakra and can help loosen up the tight vocal cords holding back whatever it is you’ve wanted to say.

When your asana practice is over, try some unfiltered journaling: have a pen and paper near your mat and, once you’ve done your practice, roll over and write down absolutely anything that comes to your mind. You may discover the lump in your throat is finally gone, or you’ll have a lightbulb moment about what you really feel. You may even discover what you need to say, and along with it, the strength and courage to go ahead and say it.

Julie Peters has been practicing yoga from the tender age of 12, and it’s gotten her through everything from the horrors of teenagedom to a Master’s degree in English Literature. She is a performance poet, freelance writer, and Vinyasa Flow and Yin yoga teacher. She brings a creative style, warm energy, and food for thought to every class.

 Julie Peters is teaching a workshop on yoga and writing from the body called Creative Flow: Yoga and Writing on Saturday April 27th at Sun Studio.