About 10 days ago, I began a 40-day kundalini kriya that focuses on the Lower Triangle of chakras, i.e. the entire region below the ribcage, front and back. As is often the case, I happened upon the set exactly when I needed it the most: the late stages of hip-injury recovery; the increased responsibilities and concerns regarding my elderly mother; and the overall recognition that karmic and current struggles become lodged in the pelvic region. Physical and emotional challenges can shake confidence and security, which are controlled by the First, Second, and Third Chakras.
It may come as a surprise, then, that this Silent Sunday hones in on the neck, which is the home of the Fifth, or Throat Chakra. With so much attention and physical effort poured into my lower body, I began to realize that some of what I was shaking loose was simply relocating to the Upper Triangle, especially the neck and shoulders. With most concepts in the esoteric arts, there is a partner aspect that balances the energies of each. In this case, the Second Chakra (part of the area that I have been emphasizing) has been releasing and strengthening; alternatively, the Fifth Chakra, its correlate, has been absorbing the load.
This Silent Sunday also serves as a reminder that even when one’s goal is to help ourselves or others, we can lose sight of and thus create imbalance in other areas. In order to re-establish balance in my own system, I created the following “quick fix” routine by combining qigong, reflexology, and mudra techniques. Because the movements are localized and small, this is a handy set to remember anytime your neck begins to stiffen. As always, deep breathing and closed eyes focused on the Third Eye form the quiet-power underpinning of the practice.
The first step may be somewhat uncomfortable for many people, as the toes are placed and held in an atypical position: The reward, however, is well worth the initial discomfort. Come onto your knees with the feet behind you, lined up with the knees and a couple of inches apart. Tuck your toes under, and lower your hips onto your heels: You may need to reset your foot and hip position until you can perch comfortably.
Shift your hips back slightly, increasing the stretch of the Achilles tendon and deepening the stretch between the arches and balls of the feet. If at first this is too intense, hover the hips a bit above the heels as your feet gradually begin to accommodate the newness of the “toe flip.” From a reflexology standpoint, the toes and the area of the feet just beneath them (top and bottom sides) correspond to the head, neck, and shoulders. Thus, this powerful pose deeply impacts the Fifth Chakra.
Ultimately, aim to sit comfortably atop the curled-under toes while you do the following qigong neck exercises. Otherwise, you can first do the Toe Flip, and then move on to the neck work in any seated comfortable position. To do the first piece of this qigong triplet, tilt the head as if moving the ear to the shoulder; then, slightly turn to look down, toward the armpit. Inhale to the position of ear to shoulder, exhale back to the start. Repeat to the other side: Inhale ear to shoulder, exhale to look down, inhale ear to shoulder, exhale to center. Complete 3-5 rounds.
Next, inhale as you turn your head to look directly to the right. Exhale, and tilt your head slightly back and up; you will feel this along the front/side of your throat. Inhale to the direct sideways look, and exhale back to the center. Repeat to the left, and again, do 3-5 rounds on each side.
The third move in this series opens the upper trapezius muscles, where so much of every-day tension comes to rest. Lower the chin toward the chest as you inhale; exhale to look at the right armpit; inhale chin to chest; exhale to raise the head back to center. Repeat to the left, and do up to 5 rounds on each side.
You may find that you need to roll or shrug your shoulders, or open and close your jaw a few times after you do this simple qigong moves. This is your body’s instinctual way to further increase the flow of qi through the previously blocked areas. Do whatever stretches or movements feel right to you, so that you can comfortably practice the closing mudra.
Ganesh Mudra is often used to stimulate and connect Heart energy with the divine. It also is the mudra that forms the hand position in kundalini yoga’s Bear Grip. In that technique, the grip is held while the arms move in a see-saw movements to free the shoulders. In today’s practice, I use the energy of Ganesh Mudra in a pranayama and movement sequence to balance the energy of the Second and Fifth Chakras.
To form the mudra, hold the left hand in front of the chest, palm facing out; life the forearm, so that it is parallel to the chest. Next, bring the right hand in front of the left, palm facing in: Curl the left fingers into the right, creating an interlocked (not interlaced) grip. Bring the gripped hands to the level of the navel; now the left hand faces down, the right up.
Inhale deeply as you isometrically pull on the grip in opposite directions. Suspend the breath as you move the actively tensed grip up to the throat level, returning the grip to the position of left palm facing out, right facing in as it arrives in front of the throat.
Exhale as you loosen your isometric pull at the Throat center, and keep the breath out as you return the hands to the level of the Navel Point (ending with the left palm down, right palm up). Inhale, and repeat the sequence 7 more times for a total of 8 rounds.
Special Note: To move the gripped hands between the levels of the Navel and Throat chakras, create an arc shape, rather than moving the mudra vertically up and down. It is as if you are drawing a semi-circle in the air between the Second and Fifth chakras.
To end, sit quietly with your hands on your knees, or move into svasana for a few minutes.