Nourishing Body, Mind and Spirit with Yoga
Dec 05, 2016 03:41AM
By Shelley Hawkos
Whether we take yoga classes from a certified yoga teacher in our favorite health gym or at a designated yoga studio, or practice in the privacy of our homes, the health benefits range from the gross to the sublime. The discipline of practicing yoga has documented health benefits, but also benefits the less tangible recognition of our heart’s desire. What is it we wish to experience off the mat in our everyday lives while interacting and having relationships? Where do we go when we know our heart and mind connection is more real than what we witness on television? The exercise is not really the point; the challenging poses or meditations are only to separate us from perceived addictions and expose us to the omnipresent flow all around us.
As first-time practitioners, we are reminded to breathe deeply and make constant corrections to our postures, or asanas, while training the mind to follow. Yoga masters practice the yogic art of awareness as a surgeon practices the art of medicine, deftly cutting through perceived blockages. Healing takes place in a range of manifestations. Physical tension or aches release their attention-grabbing alert signals to allow us to consider non-physical mental projections; closely linked emotional remembrance is associated with the pain. Anyone who has been instructed to hold a certain position beyond their comfort level understands this well. The ancients practiced yoga by making slight adjustments and documenting the effects on the body, mind and spirit, then passing each discovery onto the next pupil in direct lineage of their teaching.
Yoga is the practice of art and science around our experienced sense of self. Sometimes that discovery of self can become mired in doubt or fear when the obstacle is perceived to be too big. This is when the yoga teacher has many tools to apply or reaches in for the unique scalpel to do the job. Ganesha is known to be the “Destroyer of Obstacles” in ancient religion and may be called upon by engaging the voice in chant or song. As the voice gives vibration to the intention for cutting away debris, the mind begins to unravel from its attachment to the obstacle. This creates a space where new intention can form in its place.
Neurologically, dendrites become unattached from their patterned conclusions and become more pliable to create new patterns in roughly 20 minutes of practicing something new and stimulating. This creates plasticity in the brain; the mind is challenged to interpret a new understanding of its experience. The emotional catharsis from this release can be palpable as worry lines soften, sighing is heard or crying takes over.
The river of prana, or life force energy, comes into focus when we untangle from our own mind cages and physical limitations. This is the place of the “Aha moment”, where the mundane gives way to the sacred. The dendrites lift off their patterned destinations into the quiet of the mind and opening of the heart. By taking a deep breath and letting the experience etch itself inside us, we are nourished in body, mind and spirit. This experience can be reproduced during yoga practice when we wring out the body, deepen the breath, unravel the mind, travel on a guided visualization, and vibrate anew at a cellular level. Working in unison with other students to follow a vinyasa flow, our breathing can synchronize and cerebral spinal fluid can pulsate in harmony to create yet another collective experience.
Establishing trust and safety in the yogic environment or community in which we practice is paramount to authenticity. Holding the space for healing becomes the underlying job for not only the teacher, but also fellow students. In a world where we are inundated with falsehoods, creating this safe space alone can become the most sacred gift we give to each other. We come away from these heightened moments feeling a connection and expression that is true. We are expanded yet grounded in our preferred reality. These are moments we have available to live in touch with more of our total selves, accessing what it is to be human and divine. We walk through this existence, intact with not just the gross, but shimmering with the sublime.
Shelley Hawkos has been a Kundalini Yoga Teacher since 2002 when she began taking and teaching classes at the Wainwright House in Rye, New York. She has taught privately and had her own studio in cooperation with the local medical center where she offered wellness classes for prenatal, diabetes, HIV and osteoporosis patients.