I recently had the opportunity to experience what it might be like to live with pain in the body. I was going through a fairly stressful time, transitioning from running a business with a partner, to running a separate one alone, and I did something to my neck. It happened as I slept (a common issue, apparently) and I literally woke up not being able to see any which way but forwards! It really, really hurt. A couple of trips to a chiropractor later and, thankfully, the mobility issue was rectified. He assured me my Yoga practice wouldn’t suffer and I could continue as normal.
However, unused to pain and nervous of doing it again, I lessened the physical demonstration aspect of my teaching for a week and focussed more on ensuring my Yogis were aligned correctly.
The week all this took place, I was due to teach my classes about Ajna – the Third Eye Chakra. This governs the energies of insight, intuition and imagination. Focus and balance are key themes in any Yoga class aiming to stimulate and align the third eye and exercises in visualisation are useful, too. The element associated with Ajna is light. Particularly interesting as it’s physical centre is the Pineal Gland, our physical receptor for the cycles of light in a day and season. The pineal gland produces melatonin, which regulates sleep patterns, which are somewhat dependent, instinctively speaking, on light. Ajna also governs our sight. This includes ‘inner sight’, or ‘the mind’s eye’ in common parlance, and our metaphorical ability to see the truth of situations.
Inspired my my physical rest period and eager, as always, to share a different facet of Yoga practice with my classes, I researched the Mudra associated with the Third Eye Chakra. Here it is:
The idea of a Mudra is to redirect energy in the body. There are Mudras for every Chakra and, quite possibly, every ailment you might experience too! Mudras are commonly used in meditation alongside chanting of mantras. The commonest we use in the West is the prayer mudra (who remembers school assemblies: hands together, bow your heads and the school prayer, or Lord’s Prayer would follow. No? Just me?) which is commonly also used in the East as a greeting. It’s a sign of servility and submission, or respect.
Mudra translates as ‘seal’ or ‘mark’ and they can involve the whole body (Yogic Asanas – postures – could be described as Mudras as they redirect your energy, too). They heal, soothe and connect the practitioner to higher energies, enhancing meditation and cleansing the energy channels of the body for a higher, lighter vibration. If used regularly, this can permanently elevate the energy of the person. Think of them as electrical switches, sending the energy along a new wire.
After a Yogic ‘warm up’ bring the body to a low lunge with right knee bent and left leg stretched back.
Bring the torso upright, weight bearing on the back knee and front foot and through the groin.
Bring the hands to the Mudra for Ajna (as above) by touching the second knuckles of the index, ring and little fingers and leaving the middle fingers touching but pointing upwards.
Gently rest the thumb tips to the forehead
Repeat with the left leg leading.
So, how does all this relate to my bad neck? Well, when I returned from the chiropractor I was mobile again, in the neck, but still suffering spasms of nerve pain down my arm and into my back. Loathe to use the painkillers and gels recommended, I meditated on it. My practice with Ajna several times that week meant I was lead quickly in my mind’s eye to try listening to a meditation mantra for pain ( find it here: YouTube Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra @174Hz for healing pain relief) which really, really helped. For about an hour. The next day, inspired further by my journey into the world of Mudras, I combined listening to the mantra with holding my hands in a mudra for neck pain I’d found online (see below) known as the Vayu Mudra. Day three and I’m pain free! I feel like a huge weight has been lifted from my neck and shoulder and the relief I feel is sublime.
It would be reticent of me to compare my trapped nerve to the trials some bodies experience, and suggest mudras offer a ‘cure’, I know that, but my personal experience means I will definitely be visiting them more often from now on and don’t hesitate to recommend that you try them, too, if only to see if they work for your body.
Left: Vayu Mudra – try it for neck pain