The Healing Blessing of Yoga

Yoga is a stunningly simple, pure practice of bringing ourselves home to ourselves. And residing with some sense of ease and comfort inside our own self is, to me, the essence of what it means to heal. With kind, forgiving attention, with a sort of “baby-bird tenderness,” with patience  and compassion—all directed first toward self—we manage to re-discover our original state, our true nature, which is wholeness and perfection (even in our imperfection). And love. Deep, genuine, unconditional love.

The world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles, no matter how long
but by a spiritual journey, a journey of one inch,
very arduous, very humbling, very joyful
by which we arrive at the ground at our own feet
and learn to be home.
-Wendell Berry

And coming home—kicking off our shoes and undoing our ties (untying our knots), setting down our bags and backpacks (laying down our burden)—is where we are free to be who we truly are. Without pretense, without judgments, without labels. Where we meet and heal ourselves.

In the practice of yoga, like coming home, we are able to be our real self. Breath by breath, movement by movement, sensation by sensation, we peel back the outer layers of conditioning, of habit, of falseness—and the light of our true self is revealed. We see and know our true nature, our original state of peace and ease and steadiness and love.

At the very least (very most!), the time-out-of-time into which yoga invites us provides an extraordinary space for us to just be. Be quiet. Be still. Be here now. Which is where healing occurs, in the here and now. It is the welcoming of all of the parts of us into a gentle and kind awareness: body, heart, soul, the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, everything without exception. It is the opening of our compassionate and accepting heart to what is real.

I believe that our un-ease arises out of a kind of fragmentation of self and healing is about wholeness, bringing the disconnected, left-behind, fragmented pieces of ourselves together “at the table.”

A beautiful place where this merging may happen is on the yoga mat. I often invite practitioners,new and seasoned alike, to create a space at home where they might leave their mat unrolled and in their clear view. In this way, it may call to them: “Come, sit, stay, move, rest.” Even for a few moments in the rush and pull of the outer world, the mat becomes a sanctuary, a refuge, a place where we may “locate” ourselves.

Don’t go outside your house to see flowers…
Inside your body there are flowers.
One flower has a thousand petals.
That will do for a place to sit.
Sitting there you will have a glimpse of beauty
inside the body and out of it,
before gardens and after gardens.

In yoga practice, the body becomes our first point of entry to what lies inside, the first doorway into home. Having first established ourselves in the intention toward ease and steadiness, compassion and kindness, we invite the body to breathe and then to move in traditional yoga postures and sequences or in ways that are simply intuited by the body itself. Here we practice into trust, recognizing that the body knows how to move and—given opportunity, space and time–it will go just exactly where it needs to go.

And then we watch, we witness, we become curious about the dance of breath and sensation, of body and heart, of the inside and the outside, of left and of right. And we keep trusting. We reset our intention to stay steady and kind and open and here.

And then we drop a little deeper. And we step through another, deeper doorway that includes the body and breath and something beyond, something even more intimate. Something that brings us still closer in, making room for a deeper healing.

Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth, that around every circle another can be drawn;
that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning;
that there is always another dawn risen on the mid-noon,
and under every deep a lower deep opens.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

We stay. We watch. We open. And we bump up against our tight and wounded places. We keep watching. We keep trusting. We keep loving.