Yoga and Conscious Living


The word Yoga has been translated as “union”.  The practice of Yoga is a way of integrating body, mind, and spirit, bringing it all together.  Initially we were integrated – whole and complete.  We were born with clear awareness.  Hunger, thirst, taste and touch were very real sensations arising in the moment.  We responded with howls or happy gurgles.  Life was very real.  We experienced it fully.

After a while, however, we began to notice that expressing our needs sometimes set off negative reactions from our caretakers.  No one meant for this to happen.  We simply didn’t choose enlightened beings for our parents.  But we depend on them for everything, for life itself.  So, when we notice that crying for what we want disturbs the other, our existence becomes shaky.  To compensate, some of us learn to deny these needs, to block out awareness of discomfort.  When this pattern is established early on, the disconnect only continues and, by the time we reach adulthood, we’ve become really good at denying our needs, misinterpreting the body’s signals, camouflaging our feelings to make ourselves acceptable.  We go through life always trying to please, playacting at life, and hoping for approval.  And it doesn’t work.  We still meet with disapproval.  We don’t understand how this can happen when we’ve been denying our own needs for these people!

When we encounter rejection, we can experience the emotional hurt on a visceral level, as an actual physical sensation.  Each person is affected differently.  For some, the response is a tightening of the stomach, a closing in of the chest, or clenching the jaw.    Now, not only are we not getting our needs met, not living in a way that keeps our body alive and well, but we keep adding to our pain by storing emotional trauma.   When this goes on unnoticed for any length of time, that physical reaction accumulates as chronic tension in those specific areas and can lead to health problems.

If we are fortunate, a most remarkable thing happens midway through life.  It might be called midlife crisis or simply one of those rites of passage into a new decade.  We experience dissatisfaction, the great motivator for change.  Like the Buddha, we come to know the first Noble Truth:  Life is unsatisfactory.  We feel this.  We are now in touch with life again.

Now it may be very seductive to remain stuck in that place – life is unsatisfactory, life is suffering – and use it as an excuse to do nothing, to resist change, to choose escapes such as drugs and alcohol.  But if we allow ourselves to investigate our experience we eventually discover the rest of the Noble Truths: the root of suffering is our own unawareness and we find our way out of suffering by living consciously.  For Buddhists, conscious living means applying mindfulness to every aspect of our lives.

The practice of meditation and Yoga teaches us to live mindfully.  Meditation, or mindfulness of breathing, is the highest form of self-inquiry and can be practiced as a sitting posture or as movement that synchronizes body and breath.  Yoga is actually a moving meditation.  Practicing Yoga, you learn to listen to your own body.  You tap into your own inner resources of self-healing by becoming still within the postures, sensing body and breath in harmony.

Yoga stretches and tones the body, promotes deep diaphragmatic breathing, increases circulation, revitalizes organs, stimulates glands, and extends the spine, releasing compression.  But, most importantly, Yoga frees the body and the mind.  In postures, you sustain the stretch, noting where the resistance is, breathing deeply into that space, and gradually the resistance transforms to opening and release.  You learn that it is safe to let go of tension, opening up places that had been closed in the body and in the mind, whether it’s muscle contractions or beliefs from the past that no longer serve a purpose. You begin to experience life on your own terms, now sensing your physical environment and the present moment as safe and supporting.  You have reclaimed your birthright.  You are whole and complete, an integrated being — body, mind, and spirit.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *