I’ve always thought the lessons of yoga were really easy: non-attachment, forgiveness, compassion, and going with the flow are no problem—until you try to apply it to relationships. Then the whole thing just falls apart.
People are complicated. When we have a conflict with someone we love, all kinds of things, like fears, anxieties, old stories, concerns about how we will be perceived, and what we want to believe about the world can come into play. It’s easy enough to keep our yogic equanimity until another human is involved. “L’enfer c’est les autres,” wrote Satre, famously: “Hell is other people.”
In my last post, I talked about how the chakras can act like an emotional map to help us read our reactions. Unlike some structures of yoga philosophy, the chakras take into account the world outside your mind. They ask questions about our bodies, our environment, whether or not we feel safe, how we are communicating, and, yes, other people.
Have you ever looked over the railing on a tall building and gotten a twinge way down in your perineum? That’s Muladhara chakra, the root, located around the pelvic floor and in relationship to the legs and feet. This is the first chakra, and deals with our primal needs and survival. This chakra wants you to feel safe and grounded, literally (how sturdy is that railing?), and also in terms of relationships. When we don’t feel fundamentally safe, this chakra can clamp down, interrupting the flow of energy to the other chakras.
Grounding practices like spending time at home, eating, and calm yoga practices are very nourishing when this chakra is stressed. Getting grounded in relationships, however, usually requires some talking.
Vishuddha Chakra, the throat chakra, deals with our ability to express ourselves, creatively and otherwise. The throat and the pelvic floor connect up energetically as well as physically: anatomist Thomas Myers explains that they often work in relationship to each other through what he calls the Deep Core Line. Conscious engagement in the pelvic floor can help us access a deep source of physical and vocal power. Unconscious tension in the pelvic floor can weaken the core and strangle the voice.
I’ve noticed that sometimes in deep hip openers in yoga, you get feeling rising up as if you are about to puke: that’s energy being unlocked in the lower chakras trying to express out through your throat. In a yoga practice, a big sigh with some sound can encourage the energy to move, which is usually all it needs to do anyway.
The word “Vishuddha” means “to purify” in Sanskrit. The throat chakra’s element is space, and asks us to express the unsaid words that may be clogged in here as well as to take the time to shut up and listen. Speaking and listening are both keys for strong relationship foundations.
Of course, not everything you think should be expressed to the people you love. It’s often best to write down the unsaid words for yourself, first. Journal everything, no matter how strange or stupid it may seem. Through the mess of words, you may find something that you do need to communicate in order to establish trust and appropriate boundaries. You can’t force another person to make you feel safe, but you can trust yourself to speak your mind and express what you need. Having cleared your throat, you’ll create the space to listen, and ground your relationships in the solid ground of mutual trust and communication.