A current phrase for poor neck alignment and tension is “tech neck”: The head cranes forward toward a screen, or hangs downward toward a phone. Essentially, we are training our necks to thwart us. The misaligned upper spine disturbs the smooth flow of cerebral spinal fluid, just as a logjam would impede the flow of water in a creek. Ironically, then, we squelch our brain’s power to relay and process data, due to our near-obsessive desire to seek and dispel information.
In order to relieve the muscular tension associated with a skewed neck position, I suggest a short, creative warmup before you sit with the mudra for today’s practice. Each of the following exercises will limber up the entire spine, with a specific emphasis on the neck: The Fifth Chakra energy lives in the throat; thus, a misaligned neck contributes to the obstruction of communicative energy supplied by a healthy throat chakra.
To begin, lie on your stomach, chin on the floor. At first, this may seem awkward, or even uncomfortable; if your neck has become accustomed to a forward or downward tilt, it will resist the chin position. Fiddle around to find a manageable version of the position, and clasp your hands behind you. Stretch the arms as straight as you can, and lift the arms as far off your back as possible. Pull the clasped hands down and away from the upper body; this will open the front of the neck and shoulders. Breathe calmly and steadily for 1 minute.
Nest, press yourself up onto your forearms; this is Sphinx Pose. With your elbows under you shoulders (or slightly forward of that), squeeze your shoulder blades down and together. Begin to inhale as you turn your head to the left, and exhale as you turn to the right. Move slowly and precisely, gently easing tension out of the neck, and thus opening the Fifth Chakra. Continue for at least a minute, and up to 3 minutes.
Now, push yourself slowly back into Child’s Pose. Rest here, forehead on the floor, arms settled into whatever position feels best for you. Breathe deeply for another minute. Then, slowly rise to sit on your heels, or in a comfortable cross-legged position. Lean back on your fingertips, so that the torso is at an angle of 30-60 degrees. Look up, and if you can, tilt the head back a bit; otherwise, keep your head in line with the spine. With the heart open and the throat stretched, you have created a position that intuitively links your compassionate and communicative energies. Stick your tongue out, and begin Breath of Fire for 1-3 minutes. This version of Breath of Fire will help to clear anger and bitterness from the throat, thus further “sweetening” your words.
After this brief, yet specific warmup, come into your favorite position to meditate with the mudra. To create Shankh Mudra for the Fifth, or Throat Chakra, bring your left hand to the level of the sternum, open palm facing to the right, and all four fingers together and pointing straight up. Next, wrap the four fingers of the right hand around the thumb of the left; allow this partial fist to settle against the open palm of the left hand. Finally, touch the right thumb tip to the tip of the left middle, or second finger: The second finger is, amongst other attributes, connected to the Throat Chakra. Rest this configuration against the sternum, and begin to hum the sound of Om for 1-3 minutes. Then, continue to meditate silently with long, deep breathing for another 3-11 minutes, closed eyes gazing easily at the Third Eye.
The Shankh represents the conch that, when sounded, calls to the divine within each of us. As you hold the mudra in meditation, your Fifth Chakra energy becomes infused with the wisdom, patience, and loving energy of the divine. Consequently, your communications emanate from egoless compassion and grace; additionally, the initial humming vibrates and relaxes the vocal cords, easing throat issues and helping to dispel neck tension.