The Physical Body In Yoga Practice

Here is the thing about yoga, you really have to feel it from the inside out. There is no way around it.  You have to feel your physical body. If you go through the motions without tuning into your body, you will not get much out of it.  When you use yoga as a workout, it will be a workout, not yoga. Nothing wrong with a workout if that is what your goal is.  If your goal is more spiritually oriented, calming the nervous system and reaching a state of presence, then the spiritual aspect of yoga will be lost in the workout.  I have been to so many yoga classes where I get out feeling worse then when I got in.  Putting together an effective asana sequence is not as easy as it looks. There is a lot that goes into building an effective yoga class.  Understanding anatomy, sequencing, a creative touch, and also an understanding of metaphysics, ie, the emotional, subtle, and the unseen.

It is important to remember that tuning into the physical body requires us to get out of the mind and into the breath.To be in the body one must use the breath.  The key to being in the body is the breath.  Once we check out and get into our mind we are not in our body. Next time you are at a yoga class notice how your mind is always trying to pull you out of the present moment and out of your body and into some other scenario.  Another key point is coordinating the breath with the movement.  Knowing when to inhale and when to exhale is important to achieve the required tension release.

Awareness of body while practicing is important to get the most out of one’s practice while also tuning in to what is arising in every moment.  This is how we are able to somatically understand our trauma. We begin to feel the trauma arising from the physical body, where it has been suppressed.

There has to be a feeling of relief when we get out of a yoga class, if the ‘relief’ state is not present, the feeling of anxiety and agitation will be present and a feeling of being drained.  This is not yoga. This is a workout. Working out is not yoga.  Yoga is about releasing tension, and preparing the body for meditation. Workouts  tend to build more tension in the body, and are not meditation preparation.

Next time you are in a yoga class keep bringing yourself back into your body awareness.  When you feel your mind wandering elsewhere bring it back to the sensations you feel in every stretch and every move.  Notice where there is tension, hypertension or even irritation.  Try not to judge what you feel.  Be with it as best as you can.  Try not to change anything about it.  Trust that what is coming up is there because it requires a release. Give gratitude for being able to feel it, and know that in feeling there will be a letting go.  When you feel you know you can give your feeling attention. Something miraculous happens where you understand every inch of your physical being and are able to be your own healer.  You know without a doubt  what you need, when you need it, and why you need it.

The first step to becoming your own healer is to become completely aware of your entire physical body.  Some of us are eventually able to understand our subtle, and emotional bodies all at once.  What a gift it is to be able to be in tune with all three bodies.

Look for future blogs on how to tune into the subtle and emotional bodies while practicing yoga.

Your Eyes are the Boundaries of your Soul

I have noticed a growing trend in workshops within spiritual circles where individuals are encouraged to gaze into each other’s eyes.  You sit or stand across from someone you just met and gaze into their eyes. This is done for many minutes, and sometimes even hours. The goal is to realize our human connectedness ( unless I am missing something here).

I remain extremely skeptical about this practice. After participating in my fair share of such workshops this reflection needed to happen.

The great William Shakespeare once said : The eyes are the window to your soul. I believe he was spot on.  When we gaze into someone’s eyes we are connecting with their soul. There is no question about this.  I agree, this is a wonderful connection if the person infront of you is someone you wish to connect with on a soul  level.  However, what if you do not? Do you walk out? say no? not participate? Is there a space given for a ‘no’ from the facilitator?

So many nuances that are left unaddressed when running a workshop like this…it is a bit much, really, especially coming from someone talking about boundaries a few minutes before diving into this practice!

Wouldn’t it be wiser to connect on other levels and reserve the soul connection to those we truly want to keep close in our heart, and life?

I say there are MANY other ways to realize our interconnectedness, rather than merely gazing into a complete stranger’s eyes. I wrote an entire paper in 2010 on this subject (which I will have to locate and post sometime).

What I do recall is that I listed the ways in which we are able to realize how we are connected to one another… in our emotions, the way we experience happiness and sadness, fear , loss, betrayal; we are connected in birth, and death, sorrow, grief, joy, passion, we are connected in that we are all made of bones, skin and flesh, we are connected in that we all come from the same source and will return to that same place.  All these things do not require gazing into each other’s eyes to understand this truth.  What is required is listening, understanding, and communicating.  Yes, gazing into another persons eyes will deepen the sense of such a connection, if that is what we wish.

We walk into a workshop and connect with a dozen people or more, on a soul level when we haven’t even uttered a single word to them! How are we to “see” or “hear” their suffering, their success, their struggles, their joys and triumphs,  when we walk away and quickly forget their name? I do not mean to over generalize.  There is always that one exception to the rule.  I really cannot even name a handful of people I have connected to in such workshops.

I think there is so much confusion these days about what connection really is and that is why we are witnessing so much depression, isolation, and so many suicides . We are here in the flesh, so let’s learn to connect with our whole being, not just part of it?  People are feeling unheard, unseen and insignificant despite the level of success they have achieved in their life.  The reason is this superficiality that has now also leaked into something as sacred as looking into someone’s soul.  Eye gazing is a sacred matter.  One has to listen first and then see.

Let me ask you this- how many eyes have you gazed into this past year? How many of those eyes are you still in touch with until this day? Are they people you want in your life? Do they mean something to you? It is okay to be honest with yourself. There is power to honesty as there is power to understanding that we get to choose who we want to connect with spiritually.

I believe in our interconnection and at the same time, I do not wish to bring every single person that crosses my path into my soul! I believe in guarding my soul. My soul is my inner kingdom and as Ajame says: Let no one enter your inner kingdom unless they come with Love. I grew up in a culture where the importance of diverting one’s gaze was of utmost importance, especially when it comes to the two genders.  The Quran reads:

“Tell the believing men that they should reduce/lower their gaze/vision and guard their private parts…” – Sura: 24, Aya: 30

I have obviously not taken  this literally, it means to have modesty and integrity when interacting with each other.  Lately I have been really reflecting on this Aya.  My conclusion is to protect my soul, I must take this literally and not metaphorically.

Your eyes are the boundaries of  your soul.