For an introduction and explanation of this series, see Part one: Introduction.
The exercises I will be sharing with you over the next month will focus on 3 areas of the body: 3 areas that correlate with 3 of the 7 Chakras. In East Indian philosophy, the chakras are known as the 7 centers in our bodies to which energy flows through. It is believed that each of these chakras – like valves – can become blocked, and that it is this blocked energy can lead to illness, anxiety, depression and in general, a sense of imbalance in life.
The exercises will begin at the first chakra, the root. I will then move to the solar plexus at the third chakra, and then to the fourth chakra – that of the heart.
But before moving on to the exercises, let us discuss the main elements in which these exercises will be focused: tension, exhale and release.
Surprisingly enough, the most tense areas in the body are the jaw, the back of the throat (or soft palate), and the solar plexus.
The solar plexus – also known as the celiac plexus or coeliac plexus – is a complex network of nerves located in the abdomen, just below the sternum. If you feel where your lungs begin to separate to opposing sides, your solar plexus lies within this softer, gushy area. As you will see from gently touching the area, it is very fragile and sensitive (so be careful when touching). The solar plexus is known to be our main emotion centre. In most cases, this area is held in a tight knot. But more of this in Part 4 when we reach the solar plexus chakra.
The Jaw. When you are angry… when you are upset… how many of you notice your jaw tensing up? Do you clench your teeth? Keep your mouth closed? Next time you are anger, check to see what your jaw is doing. Chances are it is shut pretty tightly. This is one of our primary defense mechanisms used to keep some of that inner turmoil inside.
Soft Palate. And how about that awful sensation we’ve all experienced when we are hurt or upset. You know that “lump in the back of the throat” feeling? When you feel you may cry? In order to protect ourselves, we block off the passageway of our throats to literally choke down our feelings and keep them from flowing out. We do this by raising and tensing our soft palate.
As a society, we’ve come to know those feelings very well. Emotional release has become a much less accepted part of our culture. As such, many of us – including myself – know the feeling of walking around like a zombie. We get so used to blocking our energies that we feel like nothing is passing through us. We have trouble accessing any emotion at all.
If we were to be able to release some of the tension held in these areas, we may begin to actually let our feelings flow through us – thus decreasing the toxic energy we build up when we consistently block our impulses. But how can we learn to release these areas? These areas that, chances are, we don’t even notice are locked up and tense?
This is wear breathe comes in.
In typical yoga practice, as I’m sure many of you are familiar with, the general instruction is to breathe through the nostrils. Yoga practioners have many reasons for this, such as increased filtration, connection with different channels of the nervous system, and thus an increased ability to quiet and steady the mind. I absolutely agree with these notions and practice a great deal of yoga myself.
However, with the notion of calming and steadying the mind also comes the notion of cutting off certain energy pathways.
So what if I were to suggest that you try breathing through your mouth?
Exhaling through the mouth allows for a greater volume of air – your full potential of air – to be released. Simultaneously, it also enables your jaw to relax, your throat to open, and for air to flow through your entire body.
Let’s talk about the exhale.
This focus of breathe can be implemented into any or all forms of meditation. Even taking a few moments to lie down and find this open, full body breathe can have a huge impact on your sense of grounding.
More for jaw release:
These exercises – massaging your jaw, inhaling on a “K,” forcing a yawn to raise the soft palate, and releasing out on long full body exhales – are not just for those who meditate. These are exercises that can be done absolutely anywhere. Sitting on the bus? Waiting in line? Listening in class? Bored? Try relaxing your tongue out onto your lip – even slightly – for a few breathes. Test yourself during a meeting to see if you can feel cold air at the back of your throat as you inhale. Sit up straight and imagine your exale slowly releasing from your entire body, feeling yourself melting into your chair. Take a moment at any time through the day to check in with yourself and see if you can access this sense of openness. Just maybe don’t yawn too much if you are sitting in class.
These are the basic principles we will be using as we launch into a few specific exercises. Each exercise will involve open mouth breathing and will require those jaws to be released.
So with this, we are now ready to move on. Come back for part three where we will discuss and explore the “root” chakra.
Do you feel tension in your jaw? Do you notice yourself clenching your teeth or keeping your mouth closed when you are angry or upset?
Have you experienced that “lump in the throat” sensation? When does it happen and how does it make you feel?