Abstract.....The word "yoga" means union between the limited self and the absolute self, union between the individual soul and the infinite spirit, integration of the entire personality, where a person is no longer living in cross connection with the self, and then the stilling of all turmoil, so a person can contain the self .
Yoga ---the way to unite body, mind and breath and connect to the inner core of our being. So, we can reach that point which is still. When trivial events throw us off balance, and the mind is in conflict, yoga brings to that point of stillness, which hold us still, as we feel the connection between body, mind and breath. As the mind oscillates between worries, the past and future, and as we move between desires, fear, cravings, aversions that continually grip the mind—we search for something that brings the mind to an awareness of the present moment, by dropping those conflicts.
Yoga cleanses the body and mind of stress and agitation, and the clarity begins to dawn right away. The body balance and flexibility gets improved, so we become strong and alert. IT maintains an inner and outer harmony. Learning to breathe in challenging postures can help us breathe in challenging situations. As we stretch ourselves in a yoga pose, it helps us to stretch ourselves to our best at any life-situation, and in such a stretching, do we let go of the standing issues. Such is the way, we overcome stress.
Being physically flexible, we ultimately attain mental flexibility. At the same time, being mentally flexible leads to physical flexibility. So, we can live in the moment, and learn to respond to situations and not react, so we can connect with the self. As we become grounded in the self, there comes a falling peace within us. And the peace spreads outward, so we become more humane. So, we recognize that something deep in us is non-changing.
Through yoga, we experience the joy that we are. As we explore the connection between body, mind and breath through a poetry of movements, we de-stress and become so relaxed. So, we no longer become the victims and the hunted of the past. We no longer feel the need to shield and defend which in turn causes much of a stress. When we are at a loss with our painful past and become vulnerable. That vulnerable position become a place of benevolent power. Embracing vulnerability can open the portals of beauty. Yoga can help us build the courage to embrace vulnerability. Backbends are the way to cultivate heart-opening. As a heart that is physically open, leads the pathway to an emotionally open heart. Instead of masking your emotions, instead of masking your vulnerability, you embrace it, you learn how to be fearless enough to be vulnerable through yoga.
Yoga is not an escape from life, rather it takes us into the pulsing heart of it. IT will lead us to own vulnerability, to our raw places from where raw emotions arise. A beautiful vulnerability that opens the door to love, grace and the deepest healing. To realize that vulnerability is inseparable from our capacity for intimacy, creativity and love—that is a beautiful realization by itself. So, we can meet life at the deepest places we are willing to go. It’s a willingness to dig deeper into us. Yet the practice of embracing vulnerability needs strength, discernment and boundaries. The spiritual journey is an ongoing dialogue between the impulse to soften and the impulse to contain, the impulse to open and the impulse to protect. The two opposites turn to be the partners in the process of embodying heart and spirit. While the developmental journey of every human being begins in utter vulnerability, but the losses that come along the way help us to recognize our unique individuality. As a part of growing, we try to draw boundaries, and attempt to protect ourselves from vulnerability and that becomes a crucial part of our journey. While some protective strategies are healthy, some others are not. We may hide behind a mask of coolness and competence, we might internalize vulnerability, but at some point, we need to identify the walls we have built. As our self-protective strategies harden, they turn to an impenetrable ego which cuts off our growth. And then comes the point when we are forced to reclaim our vulnerability. We try to consciously reconnect with it. And we begin to live with a radical openness. When we freeze in fear or grief, and choose to look beyond our protective zone, we use the disillusionment as a stepping zone on our journey.
Yoga prepares us to meet the challenge posed by disillusionment. As we meet our essential vulnerability ---all the higher emotions such as compassion, gratitude, generosity, forgiveness, and humility arise from that place of openness. As we recognize our vulnerability, we learn how life can be terrible at time, how brutal it can be at the most difficult situations, yet it can also be wondrous and beautiful. The yogic disciple strengthens the physical as well as the energy body, through practicing stillness and learning to find the core of our being, the center from which we can rise out all the internal and external storms. This way, the inner body-vessel is created through which we contain ourselves. We reconnect to the openness and innocence of that inner childlike vulnerability, as we can access our pure being. Living in the center, returning to the source, we find that this open spaciousness is invulnerable. Nothing and nobody can touch this spaciousness that is most deeply us. So, as we reclaim that vulnerability, by letting ourselves feel it and go down to the depths of it, we return to the place where we are truly invulnerable. Standing at the aching heart of life, we come to the poised peace---“a peace that passes all understanding.”
This peace gives us the protection that we seek amidst the battles of life. It is our invulnerable core. So the need to create protective shield ceases, as we have reached, we have accessed our true source, our authentic place of bliss, where we stand tall and unbending, who can weather the coming gales of life and can be still in an ecstatic state .
Spending time on the yoga mat, as we wend our way through a long sequence of the painful past, when we feel struggling through a wave of emotion wells tears inside us—and the yoga pose unleashes some past event or emotion that was living in some part of our body. Even though we have moved past our difficult times in our lives, those traumas can continue to live in the cell tissues for years until one day, we discover them being stored in the shoulders. As we largely practice yoga and see it as a physical and spiritual exercise, we find those moments of emotional discovery—when the release of stuck emotions comes out as a benefit of that yoga.
Dredging and releasing emotional stuckness can be seen as a central benefit that comes out of yoga. Thus, yoga becomes a central part of the healing process. Asana practice is seen as the mode of healing the emotions. It helps unbury and release the emotional blocks. A sense of well being and wonder arises from yoga, so we can all be reminded that life is after all worth living. What happened in the past, can be left behind to see into a promising today. There is an immense joy in being alive, in being able to have the breath of life, and reconnecting to this eternal truth helps us in lifting the heavy sense of doom that the past trauma can bring. So it is possible to release the pain of the past, and walk forward with lightness and a new perspective. Our spirits are rejuvenated and the inner fountain begins to cascade again. The waters begin to flow and how refreshed we are, knowing the pain is left in the past and we no longer carry with it as we walk in this present moment. What burdened us for so long is lifted and as it is lifted, we look up to the sky heaving a sigh of relief. And when it happens, the yoga mat can be a space for the intense emotional release, where we can release through rage or crying uncontrollably. It takes us through the rough waters,the wild torrents of past traumas, so we can empty the fear and the grief that was buried in the cell tissue for years. We can tap into really tough challenges and ultimately release through whatever emerges during the practice of yoga. Yoga therapy lets us deeply explore the physical links to the emotional pain. And as we give attention to the breath, yoga becomes a powerful way to explore the process of emtional healing, and it is then that we see the connection between physical and emotional pain. Once that linkage between the physical and emotional part is found, the healing process continues, as we let our emotions surface and release and we continue to breathe.
If tears and screaming emerge during the process, then let them come as we continue to deepen our very breath. Being ready, we can allow ourselves to gradually transition to another pose and feel for any change or movement. Then comes a point, when we do realize that things are beginning to change, they are shifting and whateveer pain and suffering was stuck inside—they are melting away, they are dissolving. IT becomes the point of relief, when the burden gets down and slowly we find the point of bliss. The process facilitates deep healing with integrity. And we come to the healing with an understanding that while the past cannot be changed, but the perspective on it can be changed. And the healing unfolds at an organic pace. We can never erase the experience but we can heal from the way we respond to it, from the way we react to it. There we see a shift, a change in the response pattern to the trauma that once happened in the past. In this sense, yoga has its potent healing powers. So it enables us to open up and release the unreleased suffering, unblock the blocked energy that has accumulated over a lifetime.
Every yoga pose has the ability to release stored emotions. While all the yoga poses have the capacity to released the stored emotions, there are certain yoga poses that can very much speed up the healing by directly touching those places inside the body where we can feel that the emotions are majorly stockpiled. As we proceed, we notice that over the course of time, there is a progression that occurs through touching, opening and releasing, which allows us to let go of the old suffering, the yesterday’s pent-up pain, and allow the healing to begin. We release the suppresses emotions and learn how to control the mind. So no longer ruminate over the meaningless thoughts. We gain mastery over our own minds. Some of the examples of postures are---hip openers, backbends, and inversions that can led us to an inner peace. Our hips are in fact a warehouse where we have stored emotions. Our hearts grasp into feelings, that can either bring us down or uplift us.Inversion seem to be the perfect asana for flipping the perspectives, so we can look at life and situations very differently. Through consistent practicing of these poses, we let go of the things that no longer serves us. We learn how to flip our perspectives and see life from a different angle. Through such a flipping, we learn how to release emotions and heal the ancient wounds. Then there is--- Urdha Mukha Svanasana ( Heart opener), Camatkarasana ( Heart opening posture), Pigeon pose ( Hip opener) , Urdhva Dhanurasana (upward facing bow—heart-opening gesture), Sirasana(inversion).
Heart openers expand the chest and ribcage making them more open, receptive and free. It grows in compassion and connection to others, reducing isolation and depression. The benefits of heart-openers are both physical and physiological. Back bends stretch the hip flexors and helps the cheat and shoulders to open up, where the tension is held. They build dtrength and power in the back muscles. They bend the spine in a direction that it is not used to. It lengthens the spine and straightens the upper back, which helps our posture become straight. Thus it increases the mobility and awareness of the spine, improves the posture and helps alleviate some types of back and neck pain. Inversions release the pressure on the spine, which can improve the posture and alleviate the back pain. Inversions have an effect on the nervous system. To stay balanced in an inversion, one must rely on the upper body strength. To hold oneself in the pose, the core has to be engaged while the arm muscles work at their very best. The head is below the heart, blood rushes to the brain, stimulating and invigorating the entire body.
About the author.......Jayita Bhattacharjee....born in Calcutta, India and later on education from University of Houston in Economics, she had chosen her career as a trustee and teacher.
Her books " The Ecstatic Dance of Life",
" Sacred Sanctuary", " Light of Consciousness", " Dewdrops of Compassion" " The Light of Life",
" Song of Eternity" " The Breath of Heaven" are among the many that she has authored.