Here we are, before we begin practicing yoga. There’s a lot of life here. Lots of good stuff. Plenty to learn, and room to grow. But it’s kind of chaotic. Unorganized. Wild.
So, we start doing some asana. By “asana” I mean a series of physical exercises designed to stabilize and strengthen our bodies so that we can function on a higher level and fulfill our obligations without undue stress or pain. We stabilize what is wobbly, strengthen what is weak, and stretch what is stiff.
Those exercises can by nature be a bit strenuous.
But in the end, we have this. We are clean. The question is – what now?
Something is bound to happen. Will we return to chaos? That would be easy.
Having lived long enough to know that we do not have control over everything that happens in life, we can now consider how to most effectively participate in the co-creation of our world. If we cannot MAKE something happen, we can at least shape our response to life’s flow. A good way to engage in this process is through pranayama (breathing exercises). This work incorporates the bodily strength and flexibility gained in asana (physical exercises) and applies the power of the breath to our internal energetic system. Breath is powerful stuff. How we breathe can change how we sleep, how we wake, how we think, and how we feel, to name just a few. It’s a long term project. We might feel different after a singular practice, but we will feel VERY different after months, or years, of practice.
Pranayama leads naturally toward meditation and prayer. It’s like a yellow brick road, or Hansel’s stones glittering in the moonlight. The beautiful silent work of meditation, the powerful connectivity of prayer, are amplified by the practice of asana (to make our bodies comfortable) and pranayama (to turn down the static of our mental/emotional states). Whatever our faith, our path to connect with that which cannot be seen, the deep attentive self-control and focus gained through this integrated yoga practice takes us deeper along the way.
It’s a work with no end in sight. No kidding. But it’s a good work, and the rewards are abundant beyond measure.