I found myself teaching mula bandha, the root lock, in class a few weeks ago. (It hadn’t really been a part of the plan that day. It just sort of spontaneously emerged.) I allowed myself to give some very specific physical instructions, which I don’t usually do. You see, There are some schools of yoga that believe we shouldn’t teach the bandhas or ‘locks’ in the body. The idea is that as one progresses in the asana practice the bandhas happen automatically, without one having to think about it. Teaching the bandhas is at best unnecessary, and at worst confusing. Because of this, I have resisted little more than a mention of the locks in an effort to remain true to my own teachers, especially when I’ve felt I didn’t yet have enough information or experience to warrant making those choices on my own. Lately I’ve been a little more…well…experimental.
What happened that day was that the class evolved to include the principles of muladhara chakra; and we continued work with the root chakra for the remainder of the week. The following week we focused on the second chakra, and we’ve been climbing up the spine ever since.
A couple of weeks ago, when it became time to move on to vishuddha chakra, the energy center located at the throat, something changed in me. In the previous weeks leading up to the heart chakra I was feeling inspired, directed, and clear about what to bring into my chakra classes. I had been looking forward to the classes, and even wished I had more time to delve more deeply into this work. But this particular week, when I began thinking about vishuddha, I hit a wall.
The feelings that came up for me were not blaring and loud, in fact it took me a while to notice them. But they were powerful. When I thought about teaching, I felt lethargic and bored, as if the sound of my own voice was becoming tiresome…bla, bla, bla. I was also experiencing a mild sense of dread at the idea of getting ready to teach. I started to have the ‘Monday Blues’. And found myself approaching my week with a ‘just make it to Friday’ kind of attitude’. The feelings were so mild, that I could have easily dismissed them. But I took notice, and went about preparing to teach about the energetic wheel at the throat anyway.
Later it occurred to me that until that week, I had been teaching about concepts I understood relatively well. I have infinite work to do in my own practice; and by no means do I see myself as an expert in the subtle energies of the body. However, up until the 5th chakra I was confident in my philosophical knowledge and experiential understanding. I had what I felt was more than enough fodder to bring to a few hours of teaching on the subjects. But the throat chakra...
I see myself knee deep in the mud of vishuddha. My everyday efforts as a teacher, a mother, a wife, a woman, and a human are centered in exploring my voice, living my truth, sharing and moving toward my dreams, trusting in our interconnectedness, and channeling the energy of a passionate heart for the good of my family —and ultimately all beings. This is my daily work —the very seat of my triumphs and failures. These are my challenges. This energetic center is where it gets sticky interesting for me.
Caroline Shola Arewa, the author of Opening to Spirit, explains, “when energy is allowed to remain in the lower chakras, limitation continues. The beautiful body temple becomes a prison and we cannot see beyond earthly reality. As energy ascends through the heart into the throat, our horizons broaden. Our sense of awe and wonder increases, our path in life is illuminated and our direction becomes clear.” When I read these words, I feel like she is describing my process. However, I feel like a babe in the woods, at the very, very beginning of this opening. Looking up towards the sun through the trees and blinking the sleep out of my eyes. This is my chakra.
Aaahaaa. The source of my resistance. My disinterest. The doldrums of my spiritual ascension. I am stalled out! And then I Remembered (with a capital ‘R’): Slow down, go in, dig deeper. Because it’s all in there. This I really do believe. The answers are inside of us. We are whole. And we are wholly connected to every being that came before. Even, perhaps especially, the ones who spent their lives sitting in caves contemplating the nature of the universe, mapping the chakras and the nadis, practicing coming into full being-ness. All this comes from within.
Wednesday morning we slowed down. I knew it was the right thing. We began class with three oms, we breathed, we held, we focused, we rested, and we ended with om. Dear students, I’m not sure what your experience was, but the chanting of om at the end of that class was ethereal (get it? throat chakra? Ether?). It was as if we were all vibrating together, like tuning forks resonating to the waves of energy enveloping us. I can’t know how it was for you, but my own experience was of deep peace and complete wonder at the very extraordinary, almost visible energy in the room. A palpable sense of connectedness, and a delicious, deep, lingering shift seemed to be present in all of us. For me, it was one of those magical moments upon which years of practice and a renewed desire to share yoga can rest. Another layer fell away. Inspiration.
The purpose of this post? It doesn’t really matter what is known, practiced, taught, thought about, learned. Slow down and bring awareness into your body. Tune into the sensations there, and all the other things that drift into your awareness. Allow all thoughts, feelings, and sensations to have relevance. Let nothing go unnoticed, and the nature of that which is within, the fabric that holds us together: bone, fiber, blood, breath, space, light, light, light…. becomes known. That knowing, sometimes fleeting, sometimes brief, is…Radiant (with a capital ‘R’).
Keep with the practice. Practice is good.
In Gratitude, Valerie