By Nicky Poole, Yoga Community Leader
Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t seen the movie, don’t read this article!
I just returned from watching ‘The Kings Speech’ for the second time. It is a beautifully crafted film, a compelling true story and has a wonderful cast. It traces the relationship between King George 6th(known as Bertie) and his ‘speech therapist’ and friend Lionel. I was struck by just how much YOGA was in this movie, and how most of the issues presented (stuttering, anger management, lack of confidence, neglect, and fear) could be so brilliantly explained by a yogic understanding of the Chakras. The personal development of Bertie in this movie is a clear example of a man with a major energy deficiency at the throat chakra, and the brave process he undertook to unblock this energy and restore himself to a state of balance.
Briefly, Chakras are energy centres in the body. Most of the ancient yoga texts describe seven energy centres from the base of the spine, running upwards through the midline of the body to the crown of the head. Each chakra is reflective of different aspects of our personality and spiritual development, and for the purpose of this article we shall focus on the 5th chakra, called Vissudha, which is found at the throat.
Visshuda Chakra, and the energy stored in this area is responsible for communication and creativity. On a physiological level it covers the health and functioning of the Laryngeal nerve plexus, vocal chords, mouth, throat, ears, and thyroid. Energetically, the spoken word come from this chakra and gives expression to the emotions felt within the heart. The basic human rights associated with Visshuda Chakra is the right to speak and to be heard.
If this chakra is balanced, you have a strong and clear voice, you can listen to others well, you have a good sense of timing, appropriateness and rhythm, and you can communicate your ideas clearly and creatively. If you experience trauma in your early life (especially between the ages of 7 – 12) such as excessive criticism and verbal abuse, then you develop either an excess or deficiency in the throat chakra. A person with an excess of Visshuda Chakra energy will talk too much, most likely have a loud and dominating voice, and will be a poor listener.
King George 6th’s difficult childhood
In the case of King George 6th, we clearly saw that he had a major deficiency at the throat chakra: he was terrified of speaking, had a weak, timid voice with poor rhythm and a terrible stutter. His energy was blocked as it moved from the lower chakras upwards, and resulted in him having a great deal of fear around speaking and expressing himself. Words literally got stuck in his throat.
The viewer learns that Bertie had indeed suffered terrible abuses as a child. He was withheld food by his Nanny, and was starved of physical affection and love from his parents. His parents, King George 5th and Queen Mary were extremely strict, and set rules that could not be questioned. He was also subjected to endless criticism, and his ‘faults’ of left handedness and knock knees were harshly corrected. He had no freedom of choice in anything he did. He grew up with no voice.
Lionels Speech Yoga Therapy Techniques
Lionels unorthodox speech therapy techniques could just as effectively be described as yoga therapy. He bought Bertie into Savasana with the Queen sitting on his belly to practice deep diaphragmatic breathing. Lionel instructed him to chant mantra (basically an OM) as another method of breath control and awareness. He taught him Tadasana (Mountain Pose) and other simple rhythmic yoga kriyas, enabling him to find a greater sense of ‘flow’. He gave him exercises to relax and soften the shoulders, throat, jaw and facial muscles. I also appreciated how he encouraged deep verbal release through abundant swearing, and made a note to try that when I am having a really bad day.
He also explained to Bertie that “Physical exercises and tricks will only fix the surface problems”. Like any great teacher, Lionel was able to cut to the root of his physical problems when he said “You needn’t be governed by fear Bertie, you don’t need to be afraid of the things that frightened you when you were five years old”. Lionel understood that the physical manifestation of his stutter came from a lack of empowerment and confidence in expressing himself that he suffered early on as a child.
Lionel as teacher
Lionel really embodied all the qualities that I would want in a yoga teacher; endlessly patient, unorthodox, compassionate, hard ass, hilarious, and wise. We are shown an argument between the King and Lionel near the climax of the movie, and Bertie eventually yells in a frustrated rage “I HAVE A VOICE!”. This seems to be the pivotal moment in the movie, when the blockage is finally released, and he is able to transform from the reluctant and nervous King with a crippling stutter, and step fully into his new role with confidence and grace.
Go and see this movie. It is enjoyable however you choose to view it, whether it be through the lens of yoga or not.