This entry is a sequel to a previous post titled, “Prana Dance.” It deals with how we use yoga asana practice to distribute prana (life force energy) into the cells and psyche of our beings. This may sound abstract and hard to put your finger on, but actually it is the very physical, experiential act of willfully routing energy throughout the nadis or circuits of our bodies’.
One of the best ways to embody this act is by working with an injury or disease condition. I’m working with a couple of injuries now that are teaching me a lot about how to balance energy in my practice in order to promote healing. Injuries can be great friend and teachers if we are willing to listen to them. So, if you have an active injury or condition that you’re working with—listen carefully to the language of sensation. This language will help you sense the proper relationship you must build with that malady in order to heal yourself. Injuries or disease can deliver us from our own inclinations to keep pushing ahead as we unconsciously ignore our need to heal.
If self-healing is a foreign concept to you, consider this. Our bodies’ have amazing innate healing intelligence. Healing is programmed into our DNA. The most common form of healing we experience everyday is sleep. As a friend of mine likes to say, “Rest is repair.” Whether we are stressed out, banged up or suffering with a cold, a good night’s sleep generally makes things better. This restful repair occurs while we are unconscious. We can build on this rejuvenation with conscious awareness of breath and movement in our yoga asana practice.
A normal, healthy body can usually adapt to periods of high intensity exercise or stress. However, when we exceed our limits and sustain injury we need the slower, softer, longer approach to heal ourselves.
To implement this style of practice we must develop a keen sense of tender loving care toward our injuries. After an initial period of rest following an injury we enter what is called the sub-acute stage of healing. This is when carefully applied asana and breath can speed healing.
As we begin to re-engage a damaged muscle, joint, organ or mental aspect we must do so slowly, more softly, and we hold our posture longer. It may sound like a love relationship. Well, it is. This is part of how we love ourselves. Self-care is born of self-love.
Take a common hamstring injury for example. Over stretching causes tearing and pain. As we heal, we may begin to work the muscle(s) again by slowly pushing into a pose up to the border of discomfort. When we reach that border we softly sustain the pose and hold the pose for a long comfortable engagement. The final ingredient to this elixir of gentleness is the massaging breath. With a slow, soft, long sustain like a beautiful piano chord we infuse the pose with the healing massage of the breath. This combination of mindful actions tells the nervous system that this is a safe practice. As the nervous system gets the message, pain decreases and allows us to work more deeply as we continue our recovery.
This approach also serves as a metaphor for how we live our lives. Living with greater awareness, deliberation and persistence will serve to help us reach our personal goals and in our relationship with our planet and its myriad beings.