How Yoga Can Take You Down the Healing Path
One of my teachers once wrote to me that “In order to heal others we must first heal ourselves.” He saw in me a transformation from the moment I stepped into his studio to the moment I had neared the end of the yoga teacher training program. It was in the healing process of a recent loss that this transformation occurred.
Practicing yoga is one way you can take part, and help direct, your own healing process. Through asana, or physical postures, you are healing your body through movements, stretches, twists. This physical healing stems from activating the “relaxation response” through the deep breathing and muscle relaxation. Helping the circulation of blood, digestion and elimination, enhancing your lung capacity, becoming stronger yet more flexible in your muscles, tendons, bones, and strengthening your immune system overall.
Consider how the physical aspects of yoga can transform your life. Physical extension can led to physical healing: less body pain, better posture, undoing all the physical damage of sitting in chairs all day and typing on computers or lifting heavy objects or repetitive movements that create imbalance in the body.
Physical healing leads to inner healing: higher self-esteem, more self-confidence, better clarity and concentration which led to higher productivity, habitual practice of breathwork to apply on and off the mat for a calmer mind.
So, at the same time you physically heal yourself, you are also healing your mind.
You become your own best healer.
The breath is the connective force between our bodies and our minds. In class, you will hear me say often because of the power of analogy: "The breath is the bridge between the mind and the body." Slow down and deepen your breath and no one but you will set off the relaxation response in your body, allowing your mind to slow down. Your teacher can not breathe for you but can only inspire you to breathe. You can only breathe for yourself.
In yoga, we are mindful of our breath, or prana which means “life force,” throughout our poses. This deep breath, mindful breath, brings us to the present moment. It clears away the chatter in our minds. The breath brings us here and takes our minds away from there. We can observe our breath to know when we have gone too far in a pose, or have left the present moment. And when we notice ourselves drifting from our practice and our breath, we breathe to come back to what we are doing at this very moment. Breathing fully allows us to be aware. Awareness allows us to be present. Being present allows us to be still. Stillness calls upon our healing.
Taking it to the next level
As you transform and heal yourself through practicing yoga postures, you will reach a plateau. You will require, at some point, further exploration into the more complete systems of yoga. Systems that mesh physical poses with philosophy. And remarkably, that philosophy extends with ease to other modes of spirituality if one requires it. Otherwise, in itself, the philisophical systems of yoga stand well alone. Often, this is where we require a teacher to help us guide ourselves through a deeper practice. For me, that's where yoga teacher training served me immensely.
We are all healers of ourselves. We are also healers of others.
If we can heal ourselves first, then we can help to heal others.
"The greatest contribution we can make to the well being of those in our lives is to have peace in our own hearts.” ~David Simon, co-founder of the Chopra Center
My aunt, a healer herself, recounts the lineage of our ancestry. She says that in the old country, my grandfather had a job to make a living. But he was also known as a village healer. People came to him for minor injuries like a twisted ankle. His mother, my great grandmother, Maria, was a prominent healer, healing injuries and healing women's bodies as a midwife.
And really, we are all healers. We are our own best healers. But we do help others all the time without acknowledging the depths of our actions.
When you put a bandage on a child, you are healing. You may have stopped the single drop of blood but you also give them peace of mind.
When you are the shoulder your friend cries on, you may dry their tears, but you also mend their hearts.
The technicians who work on our cars may fix what was broken, but most importantly, their work gives us peace of mind.
Humans and animals in general literally require physical touch to live. When you hug someone you know or really don’t know that well, you are healing.
It can be that simple if you allow it to be.