Sunday, August 21, 2011


untangle |ˌənˈta ng gəl|verb [ trans. ]free from a tangled or twisted state fishermen untangle their nets.• make (something complicated or confusing) easier to understand or deal with.

Have you ever felt a "knot" in your belly when something was upsetting or just not quite right?  Or maybe a "lump" in your throat when a challenging truth caused the words to get stuck in the back of your mouth? Ever felt like your heart was tangled with emotions or the tension in your neck feels as if a mass of steel cords were being strummed? 

Well, the wise yogis of old observed that there are places in our spiritual neurology that get "knotted" up and can hinder us on our path towards peace and enlightenment.  They theorized that as spiritual beings, we all have three places in our energy body that can become knotted or tangled up called "granthis". Granthi means "knot," and it is a good word to describe the energy blockages we have all experienced in our nervous system at one time or other (the knot in the belly, the lump in the throat, the tension in the head).

The three are:
Brahma Granthi – in the pelvic region (first and second chakras)
Vishnu Granthi – in the center region, extending from navel to heart and throat (including the third and fourth chakras).
Siva Granthi – in the head, including the throat, third eye and crown (5th, 6th and 7th chakras).

A granthi can block energy from flowing freely through our spiritual body, kind of like a kink in a garden hose.  When the hose is kinked, the flow of water slows down or stops altogether, creating tension and preventing the water from nourishing your garden.  Granthis prevent our spiritual garden from growing (yikes!).

And so as yogis and people on the path to peace, we practice using our bodies, breath and awareness to purify and open the body, mind and spirit in order to untie these knots, so to speak.  Yogi Matthew Sweeney says that the postures that we practice begin to purify the lower granthi (body), and that ujjayi breathing begins to purify the middle granthi (nervous system or emotion) and we use the dristi (or inner and outer gaze) to purify the upper granthi (mind).  His take on it is that the inhalation brings life to the hidden areas of the body, blind spots and tensions stemming from the granthi, and the exhalation releases tension, calming the mind. Our drishti (inner/outer gaze) keeps us anchored in the moment. The idea is that as the postures provide a healthy vehicle for the spirit to reside in, the breath purifies, and the drishti anchors us.  When this happens, tensions release, the mind calms and the granthi begins to dissolve. Untangling slowly but surely.

But Matthews says that this is not enough: "We may speak of 'purifying the body/nervous system', or 'untying knots'. Such a way of speaking implies that certain things (purification of the mind/body, untying of knots) happen as a direct result of our efforts. But this is not true. The practice, strictly speaking, doesn't do anything... it just puts us in a place where we can see ourselves for what we truly are. When we see ourselves for what we truly are, the knots will untie themselves, and true lasting change becomes possible.

When was the last time you felt that knot in your belly?  What caused it?  Think of a time when you had unsaid words stuck in your throat. What did it feel like?  A tightness? A sorrow?  When was last time that your intuition felt clouded or your heart closed off?

Some believe that we come into this world with knots - small or large - as a result of our past lives.  Some believe that we create these blockages with our continued attachment and aversion.  Whatever their origin, we have the ability to practice untying them bit by bit, thread by thread with our continued practice and awareness. As Matthew Sweeney says: "True change is made possible when you are in contact with what is, when you realise what you are. It does not occur when you try to become something you are not. No amount of asana or pranayama or meditation practice will make you a better person or hasten your development. Nothing will. For there is nothing better than being what you are, right now. This is the only way the knots come undone...the practice can only bring you into yourself if it is done with awareness. Awareness is the only key ingredient, all other processes are secondary...the practice helps to maintain this contact with reality. It is important not to slide into the path of least resistance or to avoid what is difficult...."

So, you heard it here... don't be shy!  Un-tie those knots, unkink the hose by taking the time to roll out your yoga mat, move your body, breath and focus.  Your spirit will thank you :)

Until next time... 

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