You’ll have heard people describe the practice of yoga as one that connects the body, mind and spirit. And while this is true, very often all the marketing hype that sells that idea (usually accompanied by the image of a beautiful woman – almost always white – sitting cross-legged by the sea at sunset, her fingers touching in a mudra, possibly accompanied by some quasi ‘spiritual’ soundtrack – you know the one) goes nowhere near expressing the reality of the experience.
The truth is that yoga practices have the potential to change all aspects of our lives and of our being for the better.
How a holistic approach to Yoga transforms you?
So, how does the practice have such a transformative effect on the body, mind and heart? It’s quite amazing really. In this tradition, there is one model called the 5 Koshas which maps out our physical and subtle bodies. Think of it as layers of self.
The densest layer of ‘self’ is the physical body, next the energy/breath body, the mind, the higher mind and finally, the heart. The Heart Space is the deepest level and connects us to the Universe and to each other.
Anything happening at each of those levels directly affects the other levels. So, if we go to a yoga practice simply to stretch, whether we know it or not, it affects us on many levels. If we go to a yoga practice with the intention of connecting to the deeper layers of the self, then the alchemy becomes so much more potent. The transformative power is so much stronger when we practice with intention.
Regular yoga practice for inner peace
Moving the body on your yoga mat with yoga asana (postures) creates heat and openings in the muscles and joints, and deepens your breath. These yoga poses allow your energy body (Pranic Body) to regulate and balance, which in turn quietens the mind. When the body is comfortable enough to sit still, and the mind is quieter, then we get to experience the deeper layers as we sit in the practices of pranayama (breathwork) & meditation.
The meditation space is where we simply observe what is in the moment and is the most transformative of all. This movement inwards towards the spiritual heart is both the most subtle and the most powerful. At the centre, in your heart of hearts, there is a pure and overflowing well of joy, peace and endless, infinite, glorious space.
How Yoga supports wellness and healing
When we develop a yoga practice, it is kind of self-perpetuating. The more we practice, the more we yearn for it and really feel the difference if we miss it. This goes for all levels of practice and practitioners. Anyone who goes to yoga classes once a week will attest to the benefits and the sense of ‘something being not quite right’ if a class is missed. Those with a more regular self-practice including moving, breath work and meditation feel the ‘loss’ even more.
Why is this? What is missing? Well, mindful movement and breath co-ordination for one. The practice of yoga asana directly affects the health of the first two layers of the 5 Koshas described above. We work the muscles and joints building both strength and flexibility. We also move the spine through all ranges of motion, forward bends, back bends, side bends and twists improving functional movement. These yoga poses help to lubricate our joints and leads to a healthier more resilient body.
The dance of breath and body encourages deeper and more efficient breathing and directly effects the energy or pranic body. This has myriad knock-on effects such as more energy, better elimination of toxins, improved posture and lots more. All sorts of minor aches and pains can just disappear with regular practice. More serious conditions can be greatly improved with yoga therapy (with a qualified therapist).
On a personal level, what supports me most is meditation. It is the invitation to go inwards where I receive the all-important reminder that I am so much more than this limited physical version of myself. The senses draw us out into the world, all the time. There is constant competition for our attention to move outwards. By directing attention inwards, we move away from the busyness of life towards a still point at the centre, the calm and healing space at the heart of the whirlpool of life.
Also, for me, it’s the movement towards the centre rather than the getting there that makes all the difference to the quality of my life. In the process, I am reminded that I am a child of the Universe, I am connected, I am not alone, I am! It is!
Practising Yoga to enrich your life in a modern world
In so many ways, this ancient practice of yoga is an antidote to so many of the lifestyle-induced conditions that are plaguing us today. For example, on a physical level, by simply keeping the spine strong and mobile helps to boost the efficiency and health of all the structures that rely on it for support, like your lungs and diaphragm (breathing muscle) – for instance.
On a more subtle level, when we practice, we bring balance to the nervous system. Breathe in, breathe out. Focussing on breath with movement and practising specific breathwork can have a transformative effect on how we feel. Stress is the underlying cause of so much illness and anxiety and these simple tools can help us to manage the stresses of this fast-moving and demanding world – playing a preventive role in the process.
The Noeleen Tyrrell difference
As a qualified yoga teacher, I practice and teach Anusara Yoga. We use all the tools of yoga to build a strong physical, emotional and spiritual body. The practice demands that we deliberately and constantly remind ourselves of our true nature. Going back to the 5 Koshas mentioned above, the true nature I refer to is the very core, the deepest layer, the Heart Space.
The teachings tell us that space is full, whole and complete. You are full, whole and complete. This space is part of Universal Consciousness. This wholeness is not subject to change, in other words, nothing you or anyone else does (or doesn’t do) can change it.
You might ask ‘if this is part of me, how do I not feel this space, this wholeness, this calm’? Well, life is noisy, life is busy, our minds are always looking outwards through the senses and we simply forget this part of ourselves. It helps firstly to know about these teachings. So much so, that one of the schools of yoga, called Jnana Yoga, is devoted to the study of the ancient and sacred texts in order to understand this space of Consciousness.
On a more day-to-day level, the magic happens when we recognise and open to this part of ourselves. How do we do it? We practice. We go looking. We go towards the depths of our heart and come back out in some way transformed, renewed and ready to face whatever comes. In Anusara Yoga, we prioritise this through all the practices including the poses, the breathwork, chanting, meditation and then also our interactions with each other and world around us.
Writing about this fills my cup! I love Anusara Yoga. If you would like to practice with me, get in touch – I am at my best sharing this with others.