This morning I was up early (with my one year old) devoting some time to my sadhana, or my own personal spiritual practice. I was working my way through a warrior sequence when, as I reached my fingertips up and arched my back into the Warrior 1 posture, I caught myself doing something troublesome – holding my breath.
Normally I love pranayama (breathing) exercises. I enjoy the crisp April air, taking it in through my nose to fill down to the depths of my lungs. But just as I occasionally catch myself gritting my teeth or tensing my muscles, today I found myself cutting off the prana, the life force, to my body.
“Yoga” comes from the Sanskrit “yuj,” which means “to unite” or “yoke.” I’ve been reflecting today on just what it might be that we are yoking together. Today, the union I needed was between my breath, and my body.
As an assault survivor, often the unions that get most neglected is between the body and the mind, or the body and the present moment. I was explaining to a writer recently that it becomes easy to dissociate – that is, to disconnect – your mind from your body. To see your body as an entirely different entity than you. Something that is bad; something that causes hurt, pain, and trouble.
To reconnect, however – to re-unite the body and mind, to reconnect the body to the here and now – can initially be difficult. It is, however, an important process in finding the present moment and being in it. Not being in the past, where trauma has dug in its roots; not being lost in the future, where anxiety haunts us. It is in the present moment that we find gratitude, serenity, and that peace for the mind exists.
Yoga can do that for us. Pranayama can, too. Like cool air for the lungs, we can breathe in peace, and feel it fill us, down to the depths of our soul. That is a blessed union.