Category Archives: kundalini

Where Most of Us Get Stuck: Understanding the Throat Chakra

By Sara Schwartz 
©Enid Johnstone
 
I once heard someone quote Sri Dharma Mittra and said that ‘most of us are stuck in our throat chakra.’ I’ve always wondered what that meant. With a little bit of research here’s what I came up with:
 
The chakra system is a description of our subtle anatomy and a part of the map of our spirit.
 
The seven chakras form at the intersections of our Ida and Pingala Nadis. These two main Nadis also intersect seven times along the Shashumna Nadi, the central energy channel which runs down our spines. Nadis, subtle energy channels, carry concentrated prana, or vital energy through our systems.
 
The idea is that our Divine Cosmic Energy, also known as Kundalini energy, lays dormant at the base of our spine. This is why our awareness of divine self is also dormant. As we practice, we raise our Kundalini energy from the base of our spines and we experience physical, spiritual, and emotional evolutions. The final destination is for Kundalini to unlock our seventh crown chakra, allowing us to experience enlightenment.
 
Each chakra has physical and spiritual manifestations based on whether it is closed, or if it is open. As the Kundalini rises and your chakras open, you evolve into each of the seven stages. By the time you get to your fifth chakra, your throat chakra, you are fairly evolved.
 
For example, the root chakra at the bottom of our spines deals with our base desires: Our need for food, sleep, and shelter. A person who is stuck at this level of evolution might hurt themselves or others to advance materialistically. A person with an open root chakra does not worry about where the food and money will come from but simply devotes his life to service, knowing the universe will provide.
 
The throat chakra is located somewhere around the base of the throat. A physical manifestation of an open throat chakra is a beautiful, clear, and resonant voice. You might have a good sense of hearing. Your shoulder and neck muscles are relaxed if your throat chakra is open. Physical manifestations of a tight throat chakra would be chronic head colds, thyroid imbalances, a tense neck and shoulders.

The Sanskrit name of the throat chakra is Vishuddha, which means purification. Emotionally, the throat chakra governs expression, so an open and healthy throat chakra means that we are comfortable telling the truth. With an open throat chakra we make sure that our actions serve the greater good and we embody a pure way of living.
 
The good news is that the Life of a Yogi Teaching Training Manual says, “Once one’s consciousness arrives at the Fifth Chakra, it never descends again.” The amount of knowledge it takes to progress up to your fifth chakra prevents you from descending back into ignorance.
 
When your consciousness is in your fifth chakra, your personality is marked by an interest in spiritual seeking. You try to cultivate, “self-denial, self-control, austerity, steadfastness, uprightness, renunciation, dedication, truthfulness and tranquility.” The throat chakra is a good place to be: spiritually aware and seeking, telling the truth, living a pure life.
 
But there is more on the spiritual path beyond the fifth chakra. Once in the sixth chakra, located at the space between your eyebrows, you can glimpse the spirit world in this lifetime.
 
So how can we evolve our consciousness past the throat chakra? Sri Dharma says, “After long and painful spiritual practices such as self-purification, the mind, heart, and intellect are purified and the consciousness is expanded to the level of Divine Perception.”
 
You can start this process of self-purification by watching what you say, and watching what you eat. Sri Dharma often says “If you control what you put into and what comes out of your mouth, you have controlled much of your mind already.” With that in mind, try following a vegan diet for a while, and thinking about what you say before you say it, and perhaps not saying most of what you intend to say.
 
Anodea Judith recommends you take a Vow of Silence to help heal the throat chakra. In her book Wheels of Life,she writes, “By avoiding verbal communication, one can open up other avenues of communication. Namely, communication with higher consciousness.”
 
Mouna, or spiritual silence, is a great way to deepen your connection to the divine. Think of the second yoga sutra of Patanjali: “Yoga is the settling of the mind into silence.” So to be verbally quiet is a good start to being mentally quiet.
 
To be in the throat chakra evolution-wise is a good sign. And it would make sense that most of us are stuck in the throat chakra because we are sincerely practicing, but maybe not predicting the future quite yet.
 
Om Namo Shivaya! 

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Sara Schwartz lives in Queens, New York with her husband Yancy. She currently teaches at Yoga to the People, where she received her 200-hour certification in 2010. She graduated from the Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi 500-Hour Teacher Training in 2013. “Offer up the fruits of your practice” is her favorite advice from Sri Dharma Mittra. She is very grateful for the guidance of Sri Dharma and all of his teachers.

 

“Must Read” Yoga Book Review: Yoga and Long Life, by Yogi Gupta


Katherine Labonte

The book Yoga and Long Life by Yogi Gupta is an absolute gem. It is one of my favorite yoga books. It is amazing how simple and yet in-depth it is at the same time. I am not sure I know any other yoga ‘manual’ that covers so much in such little space.
Yogi Gupta was obviously an intelligent man, and well learned. He starts out with such a clear message right on the cover page, with the symbol of Om and jnana mudra – symbolically representing the purpose, path, and result of yoga all in one.
The following topics are covered in the text: the definition of Yoga, Yoga and Christianity, philosophy of Yoga, types of Yoga, principles of relativity and duality, effects of Yoga, Yoga and Ayurveda, Yoga and Longevity, Yoga postures (asanas), breathing techniques, meditation, importance of Yoga, the necessity for a teacher, food and health, color and health, relaxation, and practice courses. Throughout the book, one can see that Yogi Gupta was familiar with all the main yogic texts. He refers to the following texts and authors: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, Goraksha Samhita, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Rig Veda, Bhagavad Gita, Swami Vivekananda, Aldous Huxley, Gerald Heard, Christopher Isherwood, and Dr. Henry R. Zimmer to name just some.
What is a Yogic text, without a definition of Yoga? He defines Yoga as “a science of living.” What a beautiful definition. It is all-encompassing. He also states: “Yoga is a system of philosophic meditation and asceticism designed to affect the reunion of the soul with the universal spirit.” He makes it clear that it is not just for the body or mind, but for the spirit.
I love that he included a chapter on Yoga and Christianity, as, in my experience, so many Christians have been misled about Yoga being a cult or a religion, or “opening one’s mind to the devil.” He talks about Ghandi and Patanjali, and compares their teachings to Christ’s teachings. One example given of this is the yamas, or ethical rules. “Through Yoga a Hindu becomes a better Hindu, a Christian a better Christian, a Mohammedan a better Mohammedan, and a Jew a better Jew!”
Yogi Gupta refers to this text as a “handbook,” but I feel it is so much more. He says that we need to “transcend, as did the saints, the limits of the ‘gross’ physical self,” hence needing the techniques of yoga to bring us there. His explanation and diagram of the Ida and Pingala nadis and their purpose is very thorough. “It is by achieving a perfect equilibrium between these negative and positive influences in the body that the Hatha yogi reaches his goal.”
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There are a variety of places in the book where he refers to such things as the importance of a guru, the yamas and niyamas, the eight limbs, maya, karma (or, with every action there is an equal and opposite reaction), but ultimately he says, “in the highest forms of yoga (like Raja-yoga), he [the yogi] transcends it [maya] in Samadhi when he becomes part of the Primal Force.” All yogis (and non-yogis alike) should read such a book so that it becomes clear how inter-related the entire body is. He portrays this message through his discussion on the glands, Ayurveda, and the Chakras.
To me, the main value of the book is to very clearly show the interconnectedness within the body-mind-spirit complex; and Yogi Gupta demonstrates that through diet, concentration/meditation exercises, asana, and pranayama, one can have a positive effect on the state of one’s mind, spirit, and physical health. So, if one is not yet deeply connected spiritually, the “hook” will be on the physical health.  He says, “prevention is better than cure.” He also says, “One should try to restore one’s health while remaining in one’s normal place of residence and continuing one’s work. One does not achieve a healthy body merely by fleeing to the Himalayas, California, Florida or other health resorts.” He is showing that it is accessible to anyone who puts forth the effort, finally stating, “it [health] cannot be bought.”
Today, we think of such things as color therapy and raw foods as “new age”. But, Yogi Gupta lived on raw foods for more than twenty years and says, “I feel much better for it.” It is amazing how much he knew about the increased nutrient value of food, long before there was much publicized on that. I can see why green juices are so valuable! The color green “influences the heart, blood pressure and the emotions, and vitalizes the nerves. It also imparts wisdom, peace, harmony, sympathy and generosity.” He connected the concepts of our raw food with the color of the food, and their vibrational qualities.
I am grateful for Yogi Gupta’s work in the Americas, with Sri Dharma Mittra, and now, God willing, through me.

Yoga and Long Life can be purchased at the Dharma Yoga NY Center boutique or through the online store.       

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As a young woman, Katherine was a high school mathematics teacher about to embark on a Masters of Mathematics program. However, at the age of 28, Katherine recovered from a life-threatening and debilitating illness through Yoga and Colon Therapy. Ever since, she has been on a mission to share the profundity of both modalities, and to motivate others to delve deeper – both physically and mentally/ emotionally. Healing is found in the not so obvious ‘nooks and crannies’ of the body and the mind. She teaches private yoga, is a colon therapist, nutritionist, and instructor of colon therapy. She is eternally grateful for finding Sri Dharma Mittra and his complete Raja Yoga methods of healing, and hopes to spend the rest of her life sharing this with others.

Day Seven: Exploring Evenness


The Life of a Yogi
          I can’t even explain the insane amount of bliss that results from a Maha Sadhana with Sri Dharma Mittra. I had a little bit of a roller coaster sort of day, but after that workshop, everything is just erased. All I feel right now is devotion and ecstasy.
          My roomie and I overslept a little bit this morning, but it didn’t really phase me. That’s the main thing I’m noticing about myself lately, is that I just accept situations more readily and adjust myself according to the circumstances rather than fighting things. As Kim said last module, “Some things just aren’t worth getting upset over.” I think that’s going to become my personal mantra for the rest of my life, actually. It probably would have helped me to remember that later in the day when I was getting ruffled about some silly thing.
          The day started with pranayama and dhyana with Melissa, followed by a Dharma Shakti practice, which was a very basic class consisting of sun salutations, the main poses, relaxation, and some meditation. It was probably the deepest savasana of the training, actually – I think I’m finally beginning to understand the power of the simplest practices. We’ve been talking a lot this module about how we want to strive, as teachers, to be simple, clear, and direct. I think that’s why I love all the Dharma Yoga teachers (the mentors especially) – they all make difficult and/or complex asanas quite straightforward.
          We had Maha Shakti and Yoga Nidra afterwards with Sri Dharma, which were both awesome as usual. I just laugh so much in his classes… The element of joy is contagious. Then we had lunch, followed by a small group session where we practiced teaching the pranayama and dharana for Dharma III. Then we had our last small group session, and I got to teach. I felt pretty good about it, but I’m still trying to reconcile some of the feedback I got. Sometimes I feel like there’s nothing else I’m meant to do on this earth but teach yoga (and I feel like I’m starting to become a pretty decent teacher), and other times I feel like I’m a little kid and I just have no idea what I’m doing… It doesn’t help that I tend to take “constructive criticism” personally sometimes. Anyway, I’m thankful for the feedback, and it’s all just part of the process. I can’t expect myself to be perfect right off the bat! I certainly don’t expect it of others, so why should I hold myself to that kind of standard?
          After that we had Maha Sadhana, for which I only have a few pictures because the camera died partway through! There were a lot of people taking pictures, though, so I’m sure they’ll be posted on the other Dharma Yoga social media pages soon. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves…
~Danielle

Day Five: Clarity


The Life of a Yogi
          Nothing like a little kirtan to get you energetically charged for the last three days of teacher training. I think the actual kirtan session was a little shorter this module, but it was so vibrant that it totally didn’t matter. I’m buzzing, as I’ve become accustomed to feeling after chanting in such an awesome group of people.
          Today we started with sun salutations, pranayama, and dhyana with Andrew (who was my mentor last module, and whom I greatly miss this time around). I really appreciated the whole morning – his instructions were so clear, using just enough words and always taking his time. That’s something that I have trouble with in my everyday life: remembering to take my time with things. I realized this morning that starting to just change thatmight help me become more mindful and compassionate, and really live the teachings.
          Then we had the review of the Dharma III series with Sri Dharma himself (most of the pictures below are from that – Yoshio and Melissa demonstrated for all of us beautifully). That session ran almost an hour overtime, but I don’t think anybody was upset by this; Sri Dharma showed us so many fun (sometimes crazy) variations for use in our personal practices that I kind of felt like a little kid at Christmas.
          We had a short session of chanting with Adam (stellar), followed by Master Sadhana – the last one with Sri Dharma for this training. I found it less challenging than yesterday’s practice, but the noon class is never really easy… It almost gets harder as your practice progresses, because to do all the advanced variations that Sri Dharma offers is just completely exhausting (I don’t even do all of them yet and I have a hard time tackling that practice some days). Anyway, it was a beautiful practice, and savasana was glorious.
          After lunch we finished up with assisting and adjusting, which is sort of a hard session, but not in the way you might expect. It’s difficult because all the trainees are so good at all the asanas, it’s hard for any of them to act like beginners, or do the poses badly on purpose (so that the person “teaching” actually has something to adjust). I guess that’s why we have the internship process where we have to practice teaching – because the actual situation of teaching a room full of people who are unfamiliar with the series is impossible to imitate in these modules.
          We had another small group teaching session, followed by Maha Shakti with Adam, which were both great. I really love all my small group members, and it’s been super cool to see how they’ve progressed since the last module. Adam’s class was pretty challenging, but by the evenings I just get to the point where I’m too exhausted for it to make a difference whether it’s hard or easy. The best I can do by the night practice is to try and stay present.
          Although I still adore asana, I feel like I’m finallystarting to connect with the other limbs as well, which is a really awesome step for me! Everything is just sort of coming together, and I’m starting to discover a lot about myself, particularly the nature of my ego and the habits of my mind. But at the same time, I’m starting to be more compassionate towards myself too, instead of berating myself for things that are beyond my control (like my mind wandering away in meditation). It’s a cool thing to witness… And also to begin discovering my Self as the eternal witness.
~Danielle

Yoshio & Melissa demo for Sri Dharma.
Just before the kirtan…