By Judith Bobbe, LCSW
“To the degree that you are able to access your soul and allow it to guide you, the less compelled you are to act on desires born from fear, old patterns, low self-esteem, and past hurts.” Rod Stryker
Yoga creates space in the mind and body so that we experience ourselves differently. We get out of our busy minds in which we typically get lost. Our minds are often filled with negative patterns, anxieties, and pressures from within and without, which increase tension in the mind and in the body.
When we focus on the body in yoga practice, we feel the breath moving in the body, sinking into sensation. We surrender to a deeper experience of who we are.
This deeper experience is an endless well of sustenance, nourishment and clarity, We can relax into who we are and feel safe.
We then see options for change, for letting go of patterns and habits and which do not serve us well. We begin to see that within us is the clarity of mind and perception that we need to guide us in our growth.
With practice we can learn how to listen to this inner clarity, and to feel more secure in ourselves.
We gradually make changes in our thoughts and in our actions, which accumulate into greater health and wellbeing.
But how does yoga work so that we do experience this internal freedom?
We put ourselves into postures that open the channels of the body so the nervous system relaxes with increased circulation, and we breathe. The combination of breath and movement opens us up, frees up energy, and fuels our persistence. We shift our minds to a larger perspective of neutral observation. We shift and observe over and over again. We experience that we are really much more than our minds usually allow us to know.
We exert only the necessary effort so that we can feel ease in the pose as well as challenge. As we sink ourselves into the recesses of our own being we discover a light- filled ocean of calm, a reserve of energy and optimism which feeds our ability to let go of patterns and to feel ok.
We need to feel ok, to feel safe, in order to change.
Yoga postures and yogic breathing, deep relaxation, and meditation, all provide different ways of accessing our inner freedom and calm. When we practice over and over again we naturally learn to shift our psychological energies when we are not doing yoga, as well. This is the miracle of yoga.
We train and the training changes us. What we do with our breath and our body focuses and changes the mind.
A new set of automatic habits develop which are grounded in clarity rather than in the avoidance of discomforts.
Whatever we experience in life, whether it be it happiness and love or disappointment or loss, can be more easily accepted. We can compassionately see all that we live through as part of who we are, and we can stop struggling against life.
We can experience deep compassion for ourselves, which broadens our ability to live a life of fulfillment and purpose.
In other words we can stop identifying with the circumstances of life, and our judgements about our experiences, and instead identify with a much larger sense of self. We can relax.
The physiological benefits of opening the nervous system profoundly affect all aspects of ourselves, mental emotional and physical. The Vagus nerve is directly stimulated by the combination of deep breathing and the postures. This effect on the nervous system soothes and promotes health in all systems if the body.
These processes are now proven in current medical research, supporting the ancient practices, which have evolved into modern yoga:
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