“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
My family owned a funeral home growing up and I remember understanding at a very young age that this body is temporary. My parents never pushed any religious beliefs on me, but the one thing I always felt certain of, was that my physical body was a house for a beautiful soul.
Being a spiritual being in a suit of flesh and bone is no easy task. Life can be incredibly painful, especially for sensitive souls. We have all tasted sadness, fear, guilt, regret, jealousy, insecurity, longing and loss. But to live life fully is to also have savored the sweetness of love, friendship, kindness and beauty. In moments when the heaviness of the human experience weighs us down, yoga is there to gently guide us back to our light.
1. Yoga teaches us to accept what is.
Pain is inevitable, but suffering is a choice. I never really understood that concept until I started practicing yoga. Stepping onto the mat is not always comfortable. It’s a very confronting practice that asks us to physically challenge our bodies, our egos and our minds, and demands that we be fully present through the discomfort. Learning to breathe through whatever the moment brings is a powerful lesson that translates off the mat. As Eckhart Tolle says, “Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. Make it your friend and ally, not your enemy. This will miraculously transform your whole life.” Lean into the moment, even if the moment is uncomfortable and surrender into the knowledge that everything, whether pleasurable or painful, is temporary.
2. Yoga creates connection.
Yoga is a Sanskrit word, formed by the verbal root yuj, which means to “yoke, join, harness or unite.” Yoga connects us back to our true nature and awakens us to the truth of our oneness. When we understand that there is no separation, we are able to more deeply connect to the people and the world around us. My yoga journey has connected me with the most incredible community of students, teachers and friends and now through social media, we have the power to cross borders and connect to a global community.
The mind is wired to wander and we create suffering when we allow it to run wild without restraint. Through the cultivation of focused awareness on movement and the breath, yoga teaches us to harness our monkey mind, so we may live more peacefully in the present.
4. Yoga reduces stress and anxiety.
Yoga can help reduce stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure, boost your immune system and improve heart function. When I experienced my first panic attack, it brought my life to a screeching halt. In the height of the attack, I literally felt like I was going to die. When the physical sensations subsided, extreme anxiety remained. I no longer felt like I was going to die, instead I thought I was going crazy. Determined not to take medication, I turned to my yoga mat and meditation cushion for help. It wasn’t an instant cure, but it created hope and was one of the most effective tools I had to combat anxiety. My mat became a safe place for me to observe my habitual thought patterns and discover areas of my life that were out of balance.
5. Yoga heals.
If you’ve ever been in a deep hip opener and randomly burst into tears, you know that yoga has an incredible capacity to heal not just on a physical level, but a deep spiritual and emotional level. Our muscles, organs and connective tissue store deep emotions and imprints of past resentment, hurt and trauma. Yoga creates the physical and emotional space to facilitate the powerful release of emotional and energetic blockages in the body and cultivate the free flow of prana or vital life force energy.
May you go forward on your soulful journey and find peace in every step.
About Liz Arch