Namaste. A statement so often heard and said at the close of a yoga practice. An everyday greeting in Indian tradition. But what does it mean in the context of a yoga practice? Why is it said with such reverence? The first explanation I heard was from a patient, ever-present yoga teacher who always listened with an open heart. She said, “When you are with the light in you, and I am with the light in me, we are one.” Now, this can represent something different to each person depending on their circumstances of day, time, life history, etc. But what makes the most sense to me is the profundity of such a subtle concept: when you recognize and honor the essence of who you are, and I recognize and honor the essence of who I am, we can see who the other person is without judgment, without contradiction, and with deep, compassionate empathy. How beautiful is that?
Ok, that sounds awesome, right? But how on earth does one even begin to sort through the complex, intricately bound web of a one’s pure essence of being? Śrī T.K.V. Desikachar, yoga therapy pioneer, identifies awareness of the breath as a guiding force connecting conscious awareness to one’s purest essence of being. In short, we begin by arriving exactly as we are to observe the breath in its natural state under whatever conditions we bring to the present moment – good, bad, and ugly. This perspective on the breath as an anchor, grounding the conscious mind in the experience of the body, has been recognized by yogic scholars, philosophers, and healers for centuries.
Amazingly (and not surprisingly), the modern science community is now beginning to buy into this same ancient concept. Research is demonstrating structural and physiological evidence that the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), the part of the body that regulates our fight-flight-freeze responses to stress and danger, responds therapeutically to breathing practices. Study after study support the theory that breathing practices help us access the parasympathetic nervous system, SNS’s partner and counterbalencer, to calm oneself in states of fighting, flying, or freezing. When the PNS is in good working condition, the body and mind are able to recognize stressful experiences, respond to the situation effectively, and return to everyday life while letting go of worry, fear, and anxiety. Thank goodness, right?!
Have you ever noticed what happens to your breath when you’re stressed out, worried, concentrating on a difficult task, moving the body with effort? Most of us hold the breath when we’re under these conditions, right? And how often are we engaged in things that create stress, worry, excessive effort? For most of us, it’s nearly all the time! So what can we do to ensure the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is in good working condition? Breathe. The more we practice bringing conscious awareness to the breath in its natural state, the closer we come to training the nervous system to help us live our lives with a more harmonious and loving relationship with the bodies we’re in, which consequently brings a greater sense of peaceful contentment.
This brings us back to where we started: how does one recognize and honor one’s unique and precious essence of being? It all starts with the breath. If you’re interested in beginning your journey toward loving yourself exactly as you are, you are welcome join me for a brief, guided breathing meditation by viewing the complementary video.
Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions and comments. I’d love to hear from you! If you’re interested in setting up an appointment (yay!) please call the re+active office at 424.225.1845.
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Blessings to you! Namaste.
- Alexandra believes fostering a relationship between mind, body, and soul is essential to any healing process. Please join her on Wednesdays and Thursdays for Occupational Therapy and Yoga Therapy at re+active physical therapy and wellness. You can schedule your appointment by calling 424.225.1845. www.reactivept.com