As our third set of graduates go out into the world to share yoga, I marvel while I watch my student teacher share her yoga with my first student in her front room.
In a small village in the middle of the English countryside, among pubs, cider, fields of sheep and cows, women are sharing peace and serenity with other women. Four women walked out of my graduates house today experiencing bliss, contentment, satisfaction and fulfilment. Temporarily detached from dissatisfaction, they stride out spreading peace to their families and colleagues and the rest of the village.
Like beacons of light, they will meet adversity with courage and pain with compassion, disturbance with the oil of calm and conflict with peace. They will co-regulate the village and their far flung families today with this gift.
Yoga is embodied peace. We learn how to steer our minds away from harmful thoughts or reactions, we learn how to keep our bodies functioning well and we learn how to be of service to others.
Why would you not want this? Be a force for good – practise yoga!
“Feel your feet firmly on the ground as you lift through the heart….”
Beautiful words, but sometimes hard to achieve.. how can we ground ourselves?
Since June 2014 my students and community and I have been on an Ayurvedic diet, to reduce Vata, bringing the air element in my body down and eliminating more effectively. Every Ayurvedic Doctor (including Vasant Lad and Robert Svoboda) that I have come across, always starts by saying we need to cleanse the GI tract. We need to let go, digest and release the old shit! When we don’t, imbalances occur, these are expressed as anxiety, depression and other mental pathologies as well as of course, physical pathologies.
Yoga is always clear in its understanding that mind and body are one and so when we treat our digestive tract, there will be some effect on the mind. I have noticed, as my students and I have undergone dietary changes (less sugar,, no coffee, alcohol, meat, fish) and more according to our specific constitution, age and time of year, that we have all become less edgy, less anxious and more content.
This is not only a wonderful homage to Ayurveda, but also an experience of the impact of diet on mental health.
Asana and pranayama also play their part. Grounding ourselves, mean finding calm, getting past our upsets and emotions to a place of stability. In asana, we are digesting trauma and emotional upset every time we move our body. I found this idea hard to grasp until I experienced it. That was at a time when I frequently experienced a heaviness in my body after an upsetting quarrel, where I would lie in savasana and sob and make some small movements, then I would do gentle asana and I would unwind myself from the trauma until my body felt light and free again. (for more on this subject, pls read Swami Rama’s Yoga and Psychotherapy)
I have read a hundred essays by TeenYoga students now of how they suffered abuse or trauma in childhood and how talking therapy took them to a place of understanding and maybe a resolution but that it was the yoga that released them and took them on to another life of freedom and light.
Our mind is constantly changing, from one emotion to another -anxious, calm, excited, to depressed, lonely. Our body is not. Our body is changing to some degree, but it is a solid experience. When we bring our breath and our awareness back to our body through eating, through asana, through breathing, we are grounding ourselves. When we ground ourselves, we are reconnecting to our inner truth, The sometimes inconvenient truth of who we really are, then we can change and transform and meet with challenges with sanguine clarity of mind.
So, asana and pranayama and a good Ayurvedic diet are important. Here, if you are interested, I would like to share my top tips for grounding yourself. I will talk about some of them in future posts (though I may keep number 5 to myself!):
I believe these simple practises can help our mental health and may even help us avoid panic attacks, anxiety and depression. Grounding seems to constitute an important stepping stone towards positive mental health.
Several times a year from May to November retreats are run at Universal Yoga, guests come from all over the UK and abroad to spend four hours a day practising yoga postures, an hour or more a day in total silence and otherwise listening to philosophy talks.
Sometimes I cook for these honoured guests and sometimes I just watch the transformation with joy.
One thing I notice every time, is that they leave with a blissful smile and a softer walk, carrying the ancient secret of Yoga.
The immutable and strange secret that yoga taps the source, it connects you back into the vast ocean of joy inside yourself, the reality that never changes. Your mental and physical health are your responsibility and yours alone, yoga is the simple way to reach radiant health and inner peace, what could be more important?
This is why we do yoga.