Last week I had been to London to attend a yoga therapy course for lower back pain with Robin Monro. Lower back pain is becoming a real epidemic in the Western world, mostly due to our sedentary lifestyle with long periods of sitting at a desk and very little movement throughout the day which leads to bad posture, loss of muscles and tension in the legs, back and shoulders.
There are various reasons as to why back pain occurs. Often enough it can be simple muscle tension, especially in the neck and shoulder region. This can be improved by stretching and moving and through massages. Back pain can also have structural reasons, as it is in the case of a herniated disk, for example, which can be caused by bad posture, lifting heavy weights and simple aging. However, very often the underlying cause for back pain is of psychological nature. That does not mean that the pain is not real or that a patient is "imagining" things. On the contrary, how we feel emotionally has an incredible effect on our body and stress often manifests itself as a psychosomatic issue within different parts of the body. Stress and anxiety can manifest themselves as chronic pain and are linked to disorders such as IBS, fibromyalgia, migraines, and many more. And of course, this is often a two-way street. Research has shown that there is a strong correlation between chronic pain and depression. People who suffer from depression are often experiencing pain in various parts of their body, particularly back pain. On the other hand, suffering from chronic pain can create a great amount of stress and anxiety in a person. There is a fear of pain first of all and of making the pain worse. Patience might also be afraid of losing their independence, of not being able to heal, fear of movement in general, fear of losing their work and in worst cases not being able to leave the house anymore.
There are various ways and methods therapists use to help with lower back pain and pain in general. As said before, many instances of pain (especially chronic pain) have a strong psychological component. For these clients, I have found that chanting the sounds of the different chakras can be incredibly beneficial and a great addition to their current therapeutic treatment. Chanting a sound not only helps reducing stress, it also feels incredibly empowering.
HOW WE CAN USE THE CHAKRAS IN THERAPEUTIC WORK
You might have heard of the chakras before. The yogis believe that we have different energy channels running throughout the body. The points where they intertwine are called Nadis ( like hubs in a network). The biggest collection of these energy channels (or the biggest hubs) are placed along the spine - they build the so-called chakras. Chakra literally means wheel. The yogis believe that if a chakra is out of balance there is a lack of energy which will manifest itself in various ways affecting us both physically and mentally. Each chakra is associated with a different part of the body and shows different physical and psychological manifestations.
MULADHARA or ROOT CHAKRA: Located on the root of the spine on the level of the pelvic floor. This chakra is associated with our basic survival needs. In other words, if this chakra is balanced we feel safe, stable and grounded. The sound of this chakra is "LAM". I use the sound of this chakra quite a lot since we all need feeling grounded and safe, especially if life feels very stressful and demanding.
SVADHISTANA or SACRAL CHAKRA: Located below the navel (for women it is on the same level as the ovaries). This chakra is considered the "home of the sense of self" where we experience creativity, sexuality, joy, abundance, well-being and passion. The sound of this chakra is "VAM". I use the sound of this chakra a lot for women who experience menstrual cramps or cystitis and in general for clients with lower back pain. Another reason to work with this chakra is if a client feels stuck and unable to follow their dream and passion.
MANIPURA or SOLAR PLEXUS CHAKRA: Located above the navel where the solar plexus resides. The solar plexus is a bundle of sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves and plays a large role in keeping our organs functioning smoothly and preparing the body to respond to stress by making changes in the metabolism. This chakra is associated with confidence and our ability to take power and control over our own life. The sound of this chakra is "RAM". I love to use this chant for everyone experience belly pain and indigestion. It is also great for issues with the middle back.
ANAHATA or HEART CHAKRA: Located in the middle of the chest. This chakra governs the hear, lungs. It is also associated with our ability to love, to forgive, to be compassionate and to have meaningful relationships with others. The sound of this chakra is "YAM". I use this chakra a lot when working with emotional pain, feeling helpless, heartbreak but also issues in the upper back and thoracic spine.
VISUDDHA or THROAT CHAKRA: Located on the base of the throat. This chakra is associated with having a voice and making it heard, with being able to communicate and to understand. It is also associated with the thyroid gland. The sound of this chakra is "HAM". In my therapeutic work as well as my classes we use this chakra to strengthen the voice and our ability to make our ideas and needs heard.
AJNA or THIRD EYE CHAKRA: Located between the eyebrows. This chakra governs your pituitary gland (an important gland involved in stress management and stress response) eyes and skull. Ajna chakra is associated with our intuition and inner wisdom but also with intellect, knowledge and imagination. The sound of this chakra is "OM". We often use this chakra during a class, but I love to use it specifically for people who want to access their inner voice and intuition as well as for those in meditation to calm the mind and bring the focus inwards.
SAHASRARA or CROWN CHAKRA: This chakra is technically located a bit outside of the physical body on top of our head. The yogis believe that through this chakra we are able to connect to the divine source or the universe, it is the seat of our higher self and pure consciousness. If this chakra is balanced we experience a flow and great clarity. The sound of this chakra is either "OM" or "NJAM" depending on different schools.
I like to use different combinations of sounds depending on who I am working with. For clients with low self-esteem, I love to use "LAM" "RAM" and "HAM" because these chakras stand for safety and groundedness, for confidence and for the ability to say what you need to say. For clients suffering from period pains, indigestion or anything related to the abdominal region I love to chant "LAM", "VAM" and "RAM". For someone with upper back pain and migraine "YAM", "HAM" and "OM". I also use the chakras in my regular classes as many people are more open to chant these sounds rather than the well known "OM" which they might have a slightly negative or esoteric association with.
Working with the chakras is a lot of fun and a great way to offer students and clients another access to their body and their emotions. Whether you want to start incorporating them into your own practice or in your work as a therapist feel free about trying out various combinations and frequencies. Don`t worry about doing something wrong just follow your intuition and enjoy the sound.