Communication - The Throat Chakra

One of the very first questions my teacher Sharon Gannon asked us in our teacher training was: “How do you know that your yoga practice is progressing?” The answer, she said, was “Through the quality of your voice.” By this she meant the tenor, smoothness, and openness of your physical voice, as well as the quality of your words: their truthfulness and their connection to high intentions such as kindness and compassion. Of the qualities I’ve learned from my two most advanced yoga teachers: Sharon Gannon, and Shiva Rea, their speech was perhaps one of the most profound.

Sharon spoke slowly and carefully, with patience taking as much time as she needed to choose each word. She would rather take minute to find the right phrasing, than stumble through unnecessary sentences to get to her point.  Her teachings, therefore, were very clear, and we, the students understood, because we weren’t rushing to catch up to all the wisdom she held in her mind.   Some of the lessons I learned from her, (although some of these took years to marinate and embody) were be humble, be kind, be dedicated to right speech.

Shiva spoke more swiftly, yet still deliberately, and seemed to choose her words directly from her heart and body. One felt that she was beautifully improvising the expression of her knowledge as deliberately as any choreographed dance. It was a majestic experience to get washed over by her delivery of the wisdom of yoga. At the heart of every lecture, I heard: Be you wholly, Know who that is, and be in harmony with the world.  

So you can see why this theme is so important to me, if the point of our yoga practice is to have a better human experience, then communication with each other is at the heart of our practice.

 

 
fifth Chakra, voice, speech, communication, Jai Yoga Arts
 

The Throat Chakra

The fifth chakra is our seat of communication.  The reason the quality of our voice is the best way to know our practice is progressing, is because the fifth chakra is the last and highest of the chakras that manifest on a physical plane. All the work we do to balance ourselves out from the first chakra on up will be reflected on the top level. Just as a top blanket will be only as smooth as the sheets and other blankets beneath it. When the top is smooth, we know the under layers are smooth as well.

In Vinyasa, we practice Ujjai breath.  This practice involves a simultaneous openness, and constriction. Openness, in that we want long big breaths. So the throat needs to be open to receive. The gentle constriction as we exhale, can be thought of as that detailed tempered communication. Let that funnel be like a car wash. Stripping out anger, ego and resistance. So the breath feels big and powerful yet refined.

Ultimately, yoga is all about finding ONEness. As humans we have the tool of language which is a higher level tool than any other species.  But what are some of the obstacles that can get in the way of such a harmonious communication? I’ve come up with a little acronym to help us out here…

EAR: Ego, Anger, Resistance. When experiencing any of these, stop, remember your EARS, and use them to listen first.

1.     Ego. A sense that I am not you, and you are not me, and that we are not each other. A sense that there is a divide bigger than our commonness. A sense that I must defend and be right in order to be seen and heard. The ego is a funny thing, it’s often the things we “pride” ourselves on, that are the most vulnerable to attack. Picture yourself as a culmination of several glass pieces. With blown glass artwork the larger the glass is blown, the thinner the walls are. So it’s often that aspect that we’ve put at the center of our self-identity, that can be most reactive when someone calls it into question or challenges it.  

We are best served when we can remember this mantra: “I don’t need to be right or wrong, I just need to be me, and have understanding of you.” There is no ultimate judgement that we are comparing ourselves to, there is only perception, and perception is going to be unique to every human being. So when you run up against a mix matched perception or someone mis perceives you, remember that the “E” in ego, is the first of the three things that should trigger your attention on only one thing: Your ears.  

2.     Anger. Anger is a complex thing. It can spur us into action. That heat is an important element of life. But ironically, our anger needs to be completely resolved before INTERaction. So here’s how to let anger do it’s job with out burning down your own house:   FIRST: Let the anger at someone move you to take the step of opening up a communication with them. SECOND: DITCH the anger when you show up to converse.

If you take the subway or drive a car to work, do you then bring your car or any parts of your car, or any parts of the subway with you into the actual place of work? That would be absurd. Anger is a stimulus to alert you something feels wrong, and a vehicle to spur you into action, but that’s where it ends. Once you are taking action, leave the anger out. It needs to be a short lived experience.

As I was taught by my Buddhist teacher Kadam Morton, “There is no truth in anger. There’s simply no truth in it. It’s an illusion.” In fact my favorite hilarious quote of his is: “If you feel angry, don’t say to them: “excuse me, I’m going to step outside for a minute, because I’m angry. Instead say to them, “excuse me, I’m going to step outside for a minute, because I’m delusional right now.” Of course he wasn’t being literal. But it put kind of a funny spin on how to recognize your own state of mind, and it drove home the point that in no circumstances should you act from a place of anger. When I began to try this, it created many openings for me, where formerly, I would have been either shut down, or unproductively combative.

3.     Resistance: Communication is about being willing to be flexible in your thinking. Just like in yoga, muscles will not stretch if you are tensing them up. In communication, you are not going to be flexible, if you are resistant to the other person’s perspective. It is important that you be calm enough to move your own speech through you, so that you can be adequately heard. For this, you need to be fluid and kind with yourself and them. Resisting another’s perspective is just the fear that they are seeing some horrible thing inside you that makes your entire existence diminished. They may be poking at one of your soar points, but that does not make you a horrible person. It is okay to find out that you actually may have messed up. They may actually have a point, and if they did, and you could become a better person through hearing them, wouldn’t it be worth your while to listen?

Often communications happen so fast, we return home wishing we had had done better.  So our practice is to get better at recognizing when our ego is what is being prodded, (the sense that we don’t share the same ultimate goals), when the vehicle of anger is at work, or when we are resistant to what is happening. In any of those cases, pause, breath, and listen with your EARs. Let each of those words become a trigger to remind you of your ears.

Silent conversations

Often we have long internal conversations with our colleagues, family members, partners. We speak words to them in silence that we don’t have the courage to say out loud. They are often our childish responses to situations, and that’s why as adults, we temper them, and don’t say the things we want to say. But it’s well worth the extra effort it takes to put reasonable kind words to what feels like a giant grievance.  I’ve often found, that when I can express my concern as a concern or a pain point for me, and not in anger, that the other person has the opportunity to meet me where I am, and share their true perspective, which is often not what I thought it was. This is where the “delusion” of our separateness and our anger has the opportunity to release and become fluid. Again, for this I need to be fluid.  Likewise, it is well worth the extra breath it takes to share praise, love, gratitude, love or admiration for someone. The resistance to expressing things in the positive, is often vulnerability, or frankly, just laziness. We are so awake to our daily frustrations, that we can be asleep to all that we can be grateful for.

Ultimately, all the cleansing of our bodies and minds through yoga, serve the purpose of more productive, fluid and positive communication.  So this month in your life practice: be humble, be kind, know yourself, and remember your EARS.   

 

 

 

Sept. Theme Communication

 

One of the very first questions my teacher Sharon Gannon asked us in our teacher training was: “How do you know that your yoga practice is progressing?” The answer, she said, was “Through the quality of your voice.” By this she meant the tenor, smoothness, and openness of your physical voice, as well as the quality of your words: their truthfulness and their connection to high intentions such as kindness and compassion. Of the qualities I’ve learned from my two most advanced yoga teachers: Sharon Gannon, and Shiva Rea, their speech was perhaps one of the most profound.

 

Sharon spoke slowly and carefully, with patience taking as much time as she needed to choose each word. She would rather take minute to find the right phrasing, than stumble through unnecessary sentences to get to her point.  Her teachings, therefore, were very clear, and we, the students understood, because we weren’t rushing to catch up to all the wisdom she held in her mind.   Some of the lessons I learned from her, (although some of these took years to marinate and embody) were be humble, be kind, be dedicated to right speech.

 

Shiva spoke more swiftly, yet still deliberately, and seemed to choose her words directly from her heart and body. One felt that she was beautifully improvising the expression of her knowledge as deliberately as any choreographed dance. It was a majestic experience to get washed over by her delivery of the wisdom of yoga. At the heart of every lecture, I heard: Be you wholly, Know who that is, and be in harmony with the world.  

 

So you can see why this theme is so important to me, if the point of our yoga practice is to have a better human experience, then communication with each other is at the heart of our practice.

The Throat Chakra

The fifth chakra is our seat of communication.  The reason the quality of our voice is the best way to know our practice is progressing, is because the fifth chakra is the last and highest of the chakras that manifest on a physical plane. All the work we do to balance ourselves out from the first chakra on up will be reflected on the top level. Just as a top blanket will be only as smooth as the sheets and other blankets beneath it. When the top is smooth, we know the under layers are smooth as well.

In Vinyasa, we practice Ujjai breath.  This practice involves a simultaneous openness, and constriction. Openness, in that we want long big breaths. So the throat needs to be open to receive. The gentle constriction as we exhale, can be thought of as that detailed tempered communication. Let that funnel be like a car wash. Stripping out anger, ego and resistance. So the breath feels big and powerful yet refined.

Ultimately, yoga is all about finding ONEness. As humans we have the tool of language which is a higher level tool than any other species.  But what are some of the obstacles that can get in the way of such a harmonious communication? I’ve come up with a little acronym to help us out here…

EAR: Ego, Anger, Resistance. When experiencing any of these, stop, remember your EARS, and use them to listen first.

1.     Ego. A sense that I am not you, and you are not me, and that we are not each other. A sense that there is a divide bigger than our commonness. A sense that I must defend and be right in order to be seen and heard. The ego is a funny thing, it’s often the things we “pride” ourselves on, that are the most vulnerable to attack. Picture yourself as a culmination of several glass pieces. With blown glass artwork the larger the glass is blown, the thinner the walls are. So it’s often that aspect that we’ve put at the center of our self-identity, that can be most reactive when someone calls it into question or challenges it.  

We are best served when we can remember this mantra: “I don’t need to be right or wrong, I just need to be me, and have understanding of you.” There is no ultimate judgement that we are comparing ourselves to, there is only perception, and perception is going to be unique to every human being. So when you run up against a mix matched perception or someone mis perceives you, remember that the “E” in ego, is the first of the three things that should trigger your attention on only one thing: Your ears.  

2.     Anger. Anger is a complex thing. It can spur us into action. That heat is an important element of life. But ironically, our anger needs to be completely resolved before INTERaction. So here’s how to let anger do it’s job with out burning down your own house:   FIRST: Let the anger at someone move you to take the step of opening up a communication with them. SECOND: DITCH the anger when you show up to converse.

If you take the subway or drive a car to work, do you then bring your car or any parts of your car, or any parts of the subway with you into the actual place of work? That would be absurd. Anger is a stimulus to alert you something feels wrong, and a vehicle to spur you into action, but that’s where it ends. Once you are taking action, leave the anger out. It needs to be a short lived experience.

As I was taught by my Buddhist teacher Kadam Morton, “There is no truth in anger. There’s simply no truth in it. It’s an illusion.” In fact my favorite hilarious quote of his is: “If you feel angry, don’t say to them: “excuse me, I’m going to step outside for a minute, because I’m angry. Instead say to them, “excuse me, I’m going to step outside for a minute, because I’m delusional right now.” Of course he wasn’t being literal. But it put kind of a funny spin on how to recognize your own state of mind, and it drove home the point that in no circumstances should you act from a place of anger. When I began to try this, it created many openings for me, where formerly, I would have been either shut down, or unproductively combative.

3.     Resistance: Communication is about being willing to be flexible in your thinking. Just like in yoga, muscles will not stretch if you are tensing them up. In communication, you are not going to be flexible, if you are resistant to the other person’s perspective. It is important that you be calm enough to move your own speech through you, so that you can be adequately heard. For this, you need to be fluid and kind with yourself and them. Resisting another’s perspective is just the fear that they are seeing some horrible thing inside you that makes your entire existence diminished. They may be poking at one of your soar points, but that does not make you a horrible person. It is okay to find out that you actually may have messed up. They may actually have a point, and if they did, and you could become a better person through hearing them, wouldn’t it be worth your while to listen?

Often communications happen so fast, we return home wishing we had had done better.  So our practice is to get better at recognizing when our ego is what is being prodded, (the sense that we don’t share the same ultimate goals), when the vehicle of anger is at work, or when we are resistant to what is happening. In any of those cases, pause, breath, and listen with your EARs. Let each of those words become a trigger to remind you of your ears.

Silent Conversations:

Often we have long internal conversations with our colleagues, family members, partners. We speak words to them in silence that we don’t have the courage to say out loud. They are often our childish responses to situations, and that’s why as adults, we temper them, and don’t say the things we want to say. But it’s well worth the extra effort it takes to put reasonable kind words to what feels like a giant grievance.  I’ve often found, that when I can express my concern as a concern or a pain point for me, and not in anger, that the other person has the opportunity to meet me where I am, and share their true perspective, which is often not what I thought it was. This is where the “delusion” of our separateness and our anger has the opportunity to release and become fluid. Again, for this I need to be fluid.  Likewise, it is well worth the extra breath it takes to share praise, love, gratitude, love or admiration for someone. The resistance to expressing things in the positive, is often vulnerability, or frankly, just laziness. We are so awake to our daily frustrations, that we can be asleep to all that we can be grateful for.

Ultimately, all the cleansing of our bodies and minds through yoga, serve the purpose of more productive, fluid and positive communication.  So this month in your life practice: be humble, be kind, know yourself, and remember your EARS.