Vishuddha or Vishuddhi is a Sanskrit word that is most often translated into ‘especially pure’ but can also be translated as ‘the pure place’. This interpretation comes from the word ‘shuddhi’ which can be understood as ‘pure’ or ‘purification’ and ‘vi’ which means very ‘deep’, ‘intensified’, or ‘extreme’. Vishuddha is one of the chakras in the 7 Chakra System and you may hear it referred to as the Throat Chakra, Throat Centre, or Throat Energy Centre. This is one of the chakras we’ve been focusing on in the self-care course and in recent classes.
Physically Vishuddha Chakra is located in the area of the neck, throat, jaw, and mouth, and in some interpretations, the shoulders are included. Looking at the physical location of this chakra, it’s perhaps easy to see why this energy centre is connected to communication, finding one’s voice, expression, including creative expression, resonance, listening, and the right to speak and be heard.
Like other chakras, it’s an area that can easily become physically contracted and constricted during everyday life. Physical issues with the throat chakra have been linked to, work that involves a lot of speaking/projecting of the voice, living/working in an area with high pollution, smoking or being around smoking, allergies, and sinus issues, illnesses/conditions that affect the respiratory tract, work or leisure that encourages a forward or back head posture, mouth breathing and teeth grinding.
Physically relaxing and opening the area of the throat chakra, creating ease, balance, and space, can help us to speak, sing, and breathe more freely, allows the lungs to work efficiently, and can affect our nervous system and emotions and the quality of our sleep.
When we think about the throat chakra in philosophical terms, we often look at how easy we find it to communicate, to be heard, and equally important, to be able to listen and hear what others are trying to communicate to us. Communication is not only associated with speaking, nonverbal communication is equally important, body language, writing, and creative communication, things like art, cooking, singing, dancing, drawing, affection, acts of service, etc. are all part of our ability to communicate.
Focusing on this chakra we might realize that we’re naturally better at communicating in some ways and in some situations and less naturally suited to others. Or it might be that ways of communicating have been discouraged or actively punished in our past and that experience has given rise to fear that no longer serves us and has limited our repertoire. As well as being naturally better at some methods of communication and in some situations, we can also learn and become more skilled and at ease at communicating in ways we don’t find easy. When communication is not easy we might notice:
- a fear or anxiety about speaking in certain situations like groups or presentations
- our voice feels small or weak
- not finding it easy to express ourselves verbally, putting feelings into words
- shyness, discomfort, feeling inhibited by others
- being caught up in wanting to say the “right” thing at the “right” time or in wanting to be the “right” kind of person
- being caught up in not wanting to say the wrong thing – to make something worse
- excessive talking, talking as a defense
- saying things and later regretting them
- finding it hard to listen
- giving unasked-for advice instead of a listening ear
- disorders of the throat such as sore throat, ears, or jaw
- neck or shoulder pain
- not feeling inspired
- overusing sarcasm
- having a hard time telling the truth / telling white lies
- feeling steamrollered into others’ needs and ideas, because we can’t express our desires as clearly.
Looking at the Sanskrit word Vishuddhi and its translations of purity, it might seem to be conveying a sense of speaking the truth and it is often interpreted in this way. With this in mind, it’s really important that we acknowledge that all truth is subjective, and although our truth is as important as any other person’s, it’s important to be able to own our truth.
Avoid assuming your subjective truth is absolute:
“The truth is not just one thing, and to honestly strive for it, one must begin by saying, ‘It seems to me…'”
– Kalashatra Govinda, A Handbook of Chakra Healing 2002 p 67
In the quote above, Govinda is giving us an example of how we might frame our own understanding of the truth, other examples that I like to use variations of are:
- it’s my understanding that….
- I feel……
- My problem with that argument is….
- My point of view is….
- I hear what you are saying, but my feeling is….
- I understand where you are coming from but my thoughts are….
- My gut feeling is…
- It’s important to me that….
- We’ll have to agree to disagree…
Especially when views are polarized, I feel it’s important that we aim to express ourselves with ownership. This is not just verbally of course but also in written communication, which can sometimes be easier – we have more time to read and think about what we are saying – but can also be more difficult – the reader will not have access to our verbal cues, facial expression, tone of voice, etc.
In our culture, there is the concept of ‘white lies’ being a good thing, ie not telling the truth so as not to hurt others. I was at first surprised when one of my philosophy teachers told us that in yoga white lies are seen as contributing to mistrust. If someone realizes that we are not telling the truth in order to spare their feelings, even if on the surface this seems like a kind thing to do, they may start to wonder if they can trust what we tell them at other times. Of course, this is not an invitation to hurt others’ feelings but to find a way to speak our truth kindly and to know when we don’t actually need to speak when our opinion isn’t helpful and doesn’t need to be shared.
Sadly I know that not every yoga class feels like a warm and welcoming place for everybody and I continue to work hard to cultivate classes where everyone truly feels welcome. I know firsthand what it feels like to be told by members of a yoga class I shouldn’t be there, it feels horrible, but equally, I know how easy it is to say something clumsy and want to immediately swallow my words, it happens to us all at one time or another. With this in mind in classes I’ve been making a request, remembering that we don’t know how much courage someone has had to have to walk through the door, I’m asking that we all try to moderate our opinions and never suggest someone else shouldn’t be there, even in jest. I really appreciate your help in making my yoga classes a friendly, welcoming space for everybody.