Approaching Pain, Hunger and Self-Awareness Through Yoga
Many people like the idea of yoga, but few are aware of its scope or its benefits. From the body to the mind, from digestion to creativity, from spirituality to love, yoga offers wisdom and guidelines for everything that has to do with being human, being alive and being happy.
“To perform every action artfully is yoga.” Swami Kripalvananda
Yoga is thousands of years old and originates in India. Its history is rich with spirituality, self-discovery and healing. In contrast, the human condition is ripe with suffering, mentally, emotionally and physically. Simply put, people suffer because they are living in a world, and in a body, that constantly changes. It is often an intense journey from suffering to healing. Yoga offers many techniques to reduce or balance the impact of those changes.
Pawanmuktasana, the wind relieving postures organized and introduced by Mukunda Stiles (Structural Yoga Therapy, 2001), is a series of simple movements focused on warming and nourishing the joints of the body. (iayt.org/page/DRL_JointFreeingSeri) These movements warm the fluids of the joint and invite greater circulation. Circulation is a key component to reducing certain kinds of pain in the body.
Finger and toe curls, wrist and ankle rotations, shoulder and hip rotations, when coupled with breath awareness, become a powerful healing practice. Simple techniques, like Pawanmuktasana, when practiced two or three times a day, over a period of time, are said to have an anti-rheumatic effect, thereby reducing the experience of pain. Reduction in physical pain can also lead to a reduction in mental and emotional pain.
“If your diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. If your diet is correct, medicine is of no need.” Ayurveda Proverb
The benefits of yoga are heightened by attention to what and how we eat. In Ayurveda, yoga’s sister science, there is a great emphasis put on food as being the first medicine or the first poison. In order for food to be medicine, Ayurveda suggests eating according to constitution, which is based on a person’s elemental makeup.
Three primary constitutions, Pitta, governed by fire and water; Kapha, by earth and water; and Vata, by air and space; express qualities that are balanced or unbalanced. “Like increases like and opposites decrease” is an Ayurveda proverb suggesting that fiery Pitta should not eat too much spicy food; Kapha, weighted by the earth element, should not indulge in comfort foods; and Vata, governed by air and space, should avoid raw, dry, crunchy foods. All constitutions benefit from eating whole, fresh foods. The following page offers a few examples of tea and recipes appropriate for each constitution.
“Yoga is the perfect opportunity to be curious about who you are.” Jason Crandell
Just as a seed sprouts when met with the proper conditions, the yoga practitioner blossoms into self-knowledge when met with the right conditions. Right conditions include skillful and appropriate practice, a sense of physical ease, mental clarity, compassion, equanimity, control of the senses and connection to Self and God/Goddess.
While yoga speaks very clearly on the essence of God and Goddess, yoga is not religion. Yoga is spirituality and relationship. When life, and the relationships held within that experience, is based on the practice of yoga, a more complete feeling of happiness, wholeness and wellness are experienced. Mantra, sacred chanting, is a practice that nourishes relationship. The mantra Om Shanti Swaroopaha Aham means “I take the form of peace”. When cultivating right relationship, inner peace is a necessity. Only through peace is self-awareness possible.
The experience of a more uninhibited life-force, a sense of ultimate freedom and even God/Goddess Consciousness become possible for the student interested in having those experiences. For others, a yoga practice will bring more strength, flexibility, resiliency and calm. It is true that yoga encompasses all aspects of life. Therefore, yoga has something purposeful and healing to offer everyone.
Dr. Sudha Allitt, Ph.D., C-IAYT, E-RYT, is the co-founder and director of Kula Kamala Foundation & Yoga Ashram, located in Reading. She is also a Spiritual Chaplain at Albright University. Connect at KulaKamalaFoundation.org.
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