There are two parts to Soul + Food. The soul refers to all things that connect us with our deepest sense of Self. The food refers to all things that nourish us. Yoga has become a path for me that radically transforms my life. I practice postures, breathing, meditation, and teaching, because these experiences help me show up to all parts of my life in a peaceful, calm and present way. And this, for me, has been essential for living.
Yoga has a way of reshaping us from the center of our beings. We often come to yoga after years of living, with all of our highs and our lows. And, as the buddha once said, life is suffering and we bring all of our suffering to yoga. It lives in our bodies, oftentimes buried deep within. We come to yoga with all of our habits and holding patterns that run deep within ourselves. Our physical bodies are literally shaped by all of our life experiences. And our other bodies- energy body, emotional body, personality body, intellectual body, and bliss body- are also impacted by everything that has happened in our lives.
When I arrived at my first yoga class, I was still young and yet I had layers and layers and layers of protection built up in my body. My physical body was stiff and achy. My hormones were wacky. My energy body was low, lacking essential vitality to get me through my days. My emotions were extreme and I was not in charge. My thoughts were overwhelmingly negative and I identified with my mind. I was not aware that I had an inner witness who would sit back inside of my center and observe these layers of my being with non-judgement and self-awareness. I arrived to yoga during a time of my life when I could not function in daily life. I did not have enough energy, nor could I cope with the everyday challenge of being human. I was exhausted by it all.
Fourteen years later, I am still surprised by my own vitality and abundance of energy. I am so grateful, because there was a time where my body felt like it was full of lead and I wondered if something was deeply wrong with me. There was a time, not all that long ago, when I would imagine all that I could do if I just had the energy to do it. I still felt disconnected and alone, even when I was with friends and family.
Today, I am doing what I only once imagined was possible. And I feel profoundly connected. It's as though I have been plugged back into a source of energy and vitality that is essential for living.
These postures that we practice during yoga asana and these breathing practices we do have a profound capacity to open the stuck spots, allow stuck energy to move again, and wake up parts of the body that were previously sleeping. There is science now that shows many of the benefits of practicing yoga and meditation. Being a scientist of my own body, I have witnessed a transformation that still stops me in my tracks. I am the same, yet completely renewed, revitalized, restored, and rejuvenated. Yoga brought me back to my true nature by helping me to release holding patterns in my body, energy and mind, allowing my soul to shine through with a little more light.
I am not sure if it is the simple practice of taking time to be in my body, breath, and inner witness every day, or if it is the postures themselves that work for me. I think it is everything:
the yoga philosophy that supports my mind with an incredible structure of understanding...
the yoga postures that release energy and build strength from the inside out...
the pranayama that oxignates the entire body...
the concentration that focuses the mind....
the meditation that restores faith in the mystery and invites in peace and calm...
and the bliss of being connected.
I know there are many paths to walk and many mind-body practices that make up what we refer to as yoga these days. And I am so grateful for all of the incredibly creative people who have passed on their wisdom, allowing each of us today to find our own paths (and carve out new paths) that serve us and teach us what we need to learn in whatever stage of life we are experiencing.
The journey of waking up to ourselves is not always comfortable. Some days, seeing the truth of ourselves, the light and the shadows, is painful. I dabbled in my practices for years before I developed enough courage to begin to step onto my mat each day. Sometimes I wanted to be in a different body when I stepped onto my mat- one that was already strong and flexible. Sometimes I would become aware of parts of myself that made me so uncomfortable, I would put away my mat for months. That has all been part of the journey, building up the inner strength and resiliency to step back on my mat and sit back down on my cushion time and time again.
The return to the practice is the practice.
I am so grateful that, again and again, I have made the choice to give myself another chance. Because this path I am on is one that helps me to stay awake and continue to learn, rather than go numb and fall asleep. I know where that leads and the only way for me to travel is one foot in front of the other, in the here and now. I heard in a song recently the line: "If it weren't for second chances, than we would all be alone." I may add "third chances, fourth chances... and a whole lotta courage." Losing the loneliness isn't about gaining more friends. It's about reconnecting to our own source... plugging back in... time and time again.
Where has your journey taken you? Do you practice yoga, or are there other mind-body practices that support your life?
I would love to learn from you.