Yoga heals by bringing every layer of your being into the light of awareness. In the light of awareness, patterns and habits are organically transformed. Through long repetition of habits cooperating with the rhythms and conditions of our bodies - also known as epigenetics - genetic expression is returned to the memory of wholeness.
Your body is intelligent: given the right conditions, it balances forces of day and night, exertion and rest, excitement and dullness, internal and external conditions and seeks a clear baseline.
But in the absence of rest, wholesome resources, ways to take out the trash and do the mending, it does exactly what your household does: begins to go off. This creates a self reinforcing cycle.
But you CAN break that cycle. Yoga is a system for supplying the basic building blocks for self regulation and then bringing what is into the non-judgmental light of awareness. Light heals.
Yoga works at 5 levels: physical, emotional, mental, intuitive and Being.
In yoga postures, breath practices and mediations sensations relating to each of these levels are brought into awareness - not to be analyzed, diagnosed or interpreted - but to be. Awareness at the level of being transforms that which it is aware of.
The 6 principles of healing yoga, of the practice I've used to heal arthritis, recover and become even healthier in the aftermath of breast cancer and lead a fulfilling, abundant and creative life despite PTSD from early trauma are simple and powerful. Each one reinforces the effects of the others. And each week of Foundations of Healing Yoga is a deep dive into the physiology, research and practices of each of these principles:
- Practice: practice is like they say fishing is (I don't know, not being an angler, but the principles carries over...). Even a bad day of practice is a good day. Practice isn't practice for some performance or for perfection; practice is about meeting yourself on the mat, giving yourself over to the presence you hope to give to everyone else that day. Some days you feel great in that balance, others it's all falling. But having practiced, your day has more space, more possibility and more grace.
- Removal of obstacles: the things that blow your body/mind's cruise are obstacles, not additions, lacks not surpluses. By understanding the obstacles at their root and reducing them you get out of the way of your body's natural intelligence. Your body's natural tendency toward balance can take over and little by little return you to wholeness.
- True Core: the deepest muscles in your body can be sensed and intentionally engaged. When they are, the outer abdominals automatically engage. When we learn to sense and move from this deepest layer we access a rhythm and strength that is incomparable.
- Sensation: often we focus on external sensation. The internal senses of interoception and propriception, as well as nociception - sensing our internal states, whether of muscles like the psoas or hunger, sensing our body in space and pain sensation - are processed by the same parts of our brain that govern stress response. When we intentionally focus on internal sensation, we not only are focusing on what is definitionally present moment, but we interrupt loops of hyper-vigilance, over planning and over thinking of the monkey mind.
- Breath Awareness: the breath isn't simply a mechanism for integrating oxygen molecules into the blood and removing carbon dioxide. Not only are other gasses reliant on our respiratory cycle and other byproducts removed, but the ventilatory expansion and contraction is a secondary pump for our intestinal well being, lymphatic drainage and even synchronizing the motion of our respiratory and pelvic diaphragms, the motion of which helps to maintain the balance between our stress and relaxation responses. Yoga works not through breath control, but awareness, bringing balance to the 4 phases of breath.
- Meditation: meditation isn't stopping thoughts but becoming an observer of the processes of the mind. Meditation arises from the practice of yogic postures, practiced with the breath, while paying attention to sensation. The health benefits of meditation are well researched and profound.
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