You might wonder why the famous piece of artwork above is the title picture for an article on the Throat chakra, Vishuddha. For me, this image represents the fullness of vocal expression. Have you ever felt so angry, frustrated, stuck, or fearful that all you can do is scream? You can’t form words and so the only way to express what is inside you is a primal scream. I’m sure you have had such moments; I know I have. Vishuddha, is all about communication, expression, vocalization of our experience. It is associated with the human talent of truth.

We share our inner state with the world, mainly through our words. Sometimes in written form, but also by voice. Vishuddha represents the energy that allows us to articulate our personal experience and convey it to others; to share it with the world.

The color of this energy center is a bright blue and the earth element associated with it is space (or ether. Sound requires space. We cannot have the vibrations that produce sound without space for them to resonate within.

When the throat chakra is open, we are able to convey our truth to others and be understood. People with a strong Vishuddha energy are confident, articulate, and able to succinctly convey their thoughts and feelings. They know their truth and speak about it openly. They have nothing to hide and no shame about what they have lived, thought, and felt. There is a special power in speaking your truth. The other day in a diversity meeting at my workplace, a manager in the company shared her story of struggling with anxiety and depression since she was a teenager. She shared the ups and downs of her journey throughout her young adulthood, including times when she had suicidal thoughts, her journey through therapy, her struggle to complete college in spite of her disease, and her path to professional success. It was a powerful moment. Even though clearly it was difficult for her to relive the hard parts of her story, her voice grew stronger and more resonant as she told us how she persevered through those moments to come to where she is today. It was incredibly moving and multiple people in the meeting stepped forward after she finished to share that they too have struggled with mental health issues. That’s the power of speaking your truth.

Our world is full of fifth chakra dysfunction. When vishuddha is out of balance, one may not be able to connect to their personal experience. They may have stuffed thoughts, feelings, and experiences that they think are unacceptable to others. They may have choked down thoughts and feelings that they wanted to express, but didn’t in order to get along. They may misrepresent their truth in an attempt to impress, influence, hide, or be accepted. They might do this for so long that they completely lose touch with their own thoughts and feelings. They cannot identify them much less give voice to them. Do you know someone like this? Maybe, at times, you’ve done these things in order to escape painful emotions or to try to “fit in” with a particular person or group. Physical symptoms of a blockage of the throat chakra include, teeth clenching or grinding, TMJ, headaches, and chronic tension in the neck and shoulders. This is the result of the “gripping” that occurs when we try to suppress what wants to come out.

My sister, who has a master’s degree in linguistics, recently pointed out to me that the root of the word addiction, literally means “without words” (ad = without, diction = spoken word). Addictions to drugs, alcohol, gambling, food, pornography, shopping, etc. Are used to cover painful emotions that are deeply repressed within the addict. Since they cannot be expressed verbally (let out), the only way to deal with them is to cover them up with artificially created states of disassociation or elation.

Luckily, in those moments when we feel like we have no voice, or cannot find words to express ourselves, yoga provides many techniques for opening the vishuddha chakra. Two of my favorites are singing and chanting. Almost every spiritual tradition uses singing and/or chanting in their ceremonies. When I feel detached from my emotions, finding a song that expresses what I want to say and singing at the top of my lungs in the shower or the car is a sure fire fix. Chanting is also a beautiful practice to open the throat. Mantra meditation is designed specifically for this. When we chant traditional mantras, making the sounds of the words stimulates meridians in the mouth to produce the opening of the vishuddha energy. So do the vibrations in the throat that these sacred sounds produce. Additionally, we can open blocked energy in the throat with breathing exercises in which you stick out the tongue and breathe through the mouth, such as dog or lion’s breath. Also, asanas that compress or open the throat can be helpful. These include neck rolls and stretches, shoulder stand, plow pose and fish pose.

Each of us has a right to our truth. You may have made mistakes in your life, but YOU are not a mistake. Every experience that life brings us, helps to shape us into the person that we are. Being true to yourself is the way to self-acceptance. It is also inspiring to others who are struggling in similar ways, but have not yet gotten to the point in the journey that you are. This week, embrace your whole experience, even the painful or difficult parts. Express your truth with love for yourself and for others who also struggle. That’s all of us!