After my yoga class, I went to talk to my teacher.
“Tell me about breathing,” I said.
He calmly turned to me, his eyes gazing steadily into mine. “Breathing is as important as movement. It is part of the flow,” he replied. Breathing, I understood, is essential to yoga.
“Yoga is about healing,” he continued. The Sanskrit/ Hindi word, vyayam, apparently is related to healing.
I liked this. It’s not about pushing my boundaries, or straining my muscles. It’s not even about how long I can hold my breath. This is typically what I think about when it comes to fitness – that getting fitter means stretching my physical limits, tearing up the muscles so that they rebuild with more strength, exerting myself to the point of soreness and exhaustion.
No, yoga is not about any of that. When I heard my teacher define it as healing, I thought about nurturing, caring, consoling. Showing compassion to myself. With all the stresses of life and what they inflict on the body and soul, yoga is permission to soothe. It is the act of tending lovingly to frayed nerves, tensed muscles and a distressed mind.
Yoga as healing means making friends with yourself, including your pain. When I’m holding my downward dog pose, I look with friendliness to my heels that want to touch the floor and are not able to. I send loving thoughts to my arms that want to push me up and are quivering in the process. I gently bring my mind back to my breath as it fidgets and runs off with distracting thoughts.
In all of this, I let go of toxins that are cluttering up my insides. In my mind’s eye, I watch them release from my cells and dissolve into the exhaled air. I feel my organs get restored. I experience my body relax into the moment. My breath joins the flow of the universe.
Yoga is healing, and healing is health.