As I mentioned in my last post, the human body is designed as a conduit for energy flow. Another word for flow is circulation. Energy circulates throughout the mammalian body within tubes like blood vessels, nerve axons, the digestive system and the glands and organs. These tubes, or nadis as the yogis call them, are of many sizes and shapes and have pathways unique to their functions. When everything is flowing freely, we feel well and able to participate in all parts of our lives. When prana flow is decreased through illness, injury, or inadequate nutrition we feel the effects in a variety of ways.
Not only is this true for the physical body, it is also true for the mind. Incomplete recovery from limiting beliefs, attitudes or psychological trauma can continue to live within us, often without our awareness. This residual trauma can live as memories in our minds and in the very tissues of our bodies. In our not so distant past these manifestations of persistent psychological disease were often called demon possession. In a metaphorical sense demon possession is not as far fetched as we may think when we identify “demons” as the forces of stress and tension. These demons can be the beginning of high blood pressure, heart and kidney disease and chronic mental illness often manifesting as depression.
In Amy Weintraub’s ground-breaking book, Yoga for Depression, she devotes an entire chapter to the subject “grief in our tissues” and how to release it. Amy uses two incisive quotes to get the heart of the matter. One of them is from Lama Palden Drolma.
“Yoga practices bring us into a state of ripeness. They purify the energy channels for the free flow of prana. In the process, the sludge is brought to the surface. It’s like cleaning the sewers. The psychological and emotional obstacles get flushed to the surface.”
I have had the experience of “cleaning out the sewers” many times before and enjoyed yoga’s amazing cleansing power again this very morning.
Since I finished my yoga therapy training I’ve been involved in the slow struggle to build my business as a yoga therapist. As with any uphill battle it can take its toll. All the old stories start rising from impermanent interment to haunt me once again. You know the common lies we all face: I’m not good enough, I’ll never belong, I’m obsolete (if you’re over 55 or thereabouts), the world doesn’t need what I have to offer; the list goes on and on. As Lama Drolma says, it does feel like our minds and bodies become a toxic sewer aching with the trauma of the past.
As I always do when these feelings begin to overwhelm me, I take refuge in my practice. I rolled out my yoga mat like a magic carpet and practiced yoga postures for nearly two hours. All the bending, extensions, twists, and balancing poses acted like an exorcism to rid me of the demons of depression and doubt that were ready to blow down the door of my equanimity. With the powerful assistance of deep breathing and conscious movement I worked the demons out. This practice never fails. It is there for us everyday to massage, tone and cleanse every muscle, organ, gland and cell in our bodies. We can always take refuge in our practice. As we do, we connect with all souls past and present who turn to yoga to cultivate peace, strength and victorious living.