We can relate this to the heart and throat chakra, the 4th and 5th Chakra in the systems respectively. The heart chakra (Anahata chakra) represents love, compassion, devotion and beauty, and is the bridge between the earthly and spiritual aspirations. Heart chakra is associated with the Air element, flowing and encompassing all life, it is the life force and breath. With a balanced heart chakra you will feel surrounded in love, compassion, joy and a deep connection to your surrounding world. You will feel open to new challenges and experiences. The heart chakra is anatomically associated with the cardiac plexus that innervates the heart, thus effects the cardiac and repiratory system. It also associates with the thymus gland, which controls our immune system. Imbalance in the heart chakra can cause shortness of breath, palpitations, chest pain, asthma, shoulder pain, and mucous cough.
The throat chakra (Vishuddha) represents principles of expression, communication, purpose, truth, integrity, and is associated with the Aether element. This element is associated with the energy that fills space, the connection to spirituality and intuition. The throat chakra located at the base of the throat and is associated with the cervical plexus which innervates the upper spinal vertebrae and the surrounding muscles. The throat chakra is associated with the thyroid, throat, neck, mouth and jaw. Physical manifestations of a blocked chakra includes sore throat, pain in the jaw, pain or stiffness in the neck and shoulders, ear infections, and colds. Psychological manifestations of blockages can include, shyness, inability to express oneself properly, truthfully, or to stand up for oneself. When the chakra is over-active it can manifest as excessive talking, poor listening skills, negative speaking, and dominating behavior.
In order to help balance the heart and throat chakra, try to increase the intake of bitter and astringent food as well as green and blue toned foods. Spinach, kale, moringa, avocado, celery, parsley, dill, sage, basil, sprouts, blue berries, black berries, plums, dark skinned apples, and other leafy vegetables are all foods that can help balance the heart and throat chakra.
Lay a carpet, towel or a yoga mat and come into a comfortable sitting position. Close your eyes, start by observing your breath, inhaling and exhaling through the nostrils. Throughout the practice its helpful to focus on the two chakras. The colour of the heart chakra is green, so you may like to visualize a green translucent ball at the center of your heart. Or you might like to focus on the throat chakra which is blue, located at the base of your throat. Keeping your focus throughout is progressive for your practice, it’s not always easy to maintain your focus, so if you notice that your attention has shifted encourage yourself to bring it back without self judgement.
Once you feel centered, deepen your breath, with each inhalation allow your stomach to expand and your ribcage to expand to fill your lungs fully. As you exhale feel your rib cage lowering and then your stomach releasing and drawing back in towards the spine to complete the exhalation. Equalize the inhalation and exhalation. Slowly count to 6 as you take a complete inhalation, and a count of 6 to take a complete exhalation. Maintain your focus with the breath, visualizing the path of your breath as you inhale and exhale and the sensation of your breath while you practice this pranayama.
Come into a table top position on all fours with your knees hip width apart and palms directly under your shoulders. Inhale in a position where your spine is neutral, then as you exhale start to turn the hips in, push the back of your shoulder blades upwards, stretching out the upper back, and bend your neck to look towards your belly button. Bring your chin as close as you can to your collar bone. In this cat pose, the posterior of the spine is extended from the base of the spine upto the base of the skull. As you inhale, start to turn the hips outwards so that the tail bone points towards the ceiling, curve the spine, look upwards extending the front of your throat. Repeat the movements from cat to cow 10 times, end in a position with your back neutral, and rest in child pose.
Come into a upright position on your knees hip-width apart. Place your palms at the lower back for support. As you inhale extend the spine upwards, and as you exhale transition into a back bend. Push your elbows close together to open the chest, pressing the hips slightly forward, keeping the stomach and buttocks engaged as much as possible. Depending on your spine flexibility you may be looking upwards, or behind as you tilt your head back. Hold the back bend for 5 to 10 full breaths. Return back to an upright position, and rest in child pose. Repeat 3 times.
If you are comfortable to go into a deeper back bend you can lower your hands to the back of your heels as you transition into a back bend. In this full camel pose you should allow your head to tilt back, open and spread the chest as much a possible, while maintaining the position where the hips are above the knees (hips pushing slightly forward). Make sure that you are not feeling any excessive compression in your lower back. Stay for 5 to 10 full breaths. Return back to and upright position, and rest in child pose. Repeat 3 times.
Come onto all fours. Bring your toes together and lower your bottom towards your heels, spread your knees out as much as you can. Walk your palms in, and turn them around so your fingers are pointing towards the groin and the wrists are turned out. Inhale deeply through your nose, as you exhale though out your mouth open your mouth wide and draw your tongue out pointing the tongue towards the chin. Try to gaze upwards as you exhale. Inhale through your nose, draw the tongue back in. Repeat this 5 times. If you have any knee pain or wrist pain, you can do the lion’s breath in a comfortable sitting position.
Lying on your stomach and legs extended, bring your hands to the side of your chest, palms touching the mat and with your elbows bent upwards. As you inhale, push your palms firmly into the mat and lift your upper body off the mat by gradually extending your elbow. Take care of your lower back, and only lift until where you are comfortable. There should be no pinching in your lower back. Keep your shoulders pushing down and the neck extended. Gaze upward without compressing the back of your neck. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths. Lower the upper body down to the mat as you exhale, push your hips back towards your heels to child pose and rest. Repeat 3 times.
Alternatively come into upward dog. From the prone position on your stomach with the palms to the side of your chest, inhale and push your upper body completely off the mat by extending your elbows and engaging the lower body to lift the hips and the knees off the mat. The contact point with the mat will be your palms and the top of your feet. Push the shoulders down, extend your neck and gaze upwards. Hold for 5 breaths, and as you exhale gently lower your body back down to the mat and come into child pose to rest. Repeat 3 times.
Come into a low lunge position, with the back knee lowered on to the mat, untuck your back toes. Push your hips forward enough that as you feel enough extension in the inner and upper thighs. As you inhale draw your arms up, extend the spine, and as you exhale come into a slight back bend, opening the chest upwards and tilting the head back. Alternatively, you may like to bring one hand down to the back of your leg for subtle support. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths, as you inhale lift back upright, exhale and shift into child pose. Repeat with your opposite leg forward.
Come into a supine position, lying on your back. Bend the knees and walk your heels towards your bottom, feet hip width apart. Engage your bottom, lift and push the hips upwards. As you continue to push the hips upwards, push your feet firmly into the mat. Optionally, you can also clasp your hands together by tucking the shoulders under and expanding the chest. Hold this position for 5 to 10 breaths. As you exhale, lower your spine down to the mat and relax the hips down. Repeat 3 times.
Come into a sitting position with the spine upright. Place your palms beside the hips onto the mat, and bend your knees, inhale and lift the hips off the mat to create a table shape with the body. Keep the heels under the knees and the palms under the shoulders. Push the hips as high as you can to level the torso with the knees and the shoulders. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths. Exhale to lower the bottom back to the mat. Repeat 3 times.
Alternatively, keep your legs extended to come into reverse plank. Inhale to lift the hips and legs off the mat, keeping the heel on the ground. Try to lower the sole of your feet down towards the ground as much as you can.
Take your mat or towel near a wall. Lie on your mat with your bottom touching the wall and the legs resting against the wall. Close your eyes, relax your arms and shoulders. Bring your awareness to your breath and to the chakra points at your chest and your throat.
Stay for 5 minutes. Roll side ways to come out of the pose. Stay on the mat on your side for some time before sitting up.
This asana practice should allow you to feel love, joy, confidence and clear sense of self. It’s important to continue your practice regularly to maintain a balanced chakra system. If you missed the previous articles, you can find an article about the Chakra system in the May issue, the Root Chakra in the June issue, and the Sacral and Solar Plexus chakra in the July issue. Take time out to check into your energy centers!