By meeting ourselves as we truly are in our practice, we cultivate the space for connection, healing and abundant possibility in our lives.
Moving in integrated alignment within our yoga practice begins the conversation between body and mind, creating the space to truly sit with ourselves. We begin to acknowledge and own our stories. The body-mind connection flows freely and in a more authentic way.
This remapping activates our inherent wisdom, which forms a baseline for healing and exploration of the true self.
This space makes a container for us to reflect on what we want to carry forward from our past—and what was someone else’s story that we took on as our own.
Many of us have survived a traumatic event or series of events that created a significant shift in our core beliefs and values and caused us to carry on the dysfunctional habits of our families, friends or teachers. We may not even be aware of how we have assimilated something so destructive into our essential selves, until we begin a natural movement self-care practice.
This was my personal experience.
When I began to discover the connection of mind and body through my yoga and pranayama (breath) practices, the abusive memories I suppressed after my childhood in order to survive began to surface. Sitting in this pain was only possible through my practices.
As I moved through my yoga practice, the emotional memories stored within my physical body began to explosively release. The overwhelming grief and shame would rise up uncontrollably. Rather than continue to suppress the traumatic hand I was dealt or the repercussions of my bad decisions, I released the emotions through tears, sweat and intention.
I maintained these cathartic practices for several months at a time with one constant truth: the more I came to my mat with the intention of self-care and self-love, the easier the practice of “relinquishing that which did not serve me in order to receive that which did” became.
We have the power to turn the gaze inward, to truly be with ourselves through the pain, loss, anger, fear and hurt until we are ready to release our identification with them. We have the ability to plant bijas (seeds) of change as intentions. When we infuse our poses with purpose, we move our hopes, desires and dreams from our hearts into action in the world. I had held a deep desire to accept that I did not deserve the physical or emotional abusive I received for nearly a decade.
By truly accepting and facing all of the pain, I was able to walk through to the other side, leaving it behind.
I relinquished someone else’s story that I had taken on as my own truth.
Healing and connection are my intentions every time I step onto my mat. Some days, my home practice is simply 15 minutes, and some days, it is pranayama. Taking the time for self-love and self-care, on a daily basis continues to remap the dysfunctional habits I was raised with and strengthen the woman that I have fought to become.
“’We will develop and cultivate the liberation of mind by loving-kindness, make it our vehicle, make it our basis, stabilize it, exercise ourselves in it, and fully perfect it.’ Thus should you train yourselves.”
One of my favorite Breathing Practices.
Come to a comfortable seated position, outside if possible, or lie down in basic relaxation pose. Set your timer to a pleasant alarm for 15 minutes so that you can completely surrender. Even give your feet complete permission to do nothing. Invite your hands into prayer position, or if you’re feeling anxious or exhausted, place them palms down down on top of your thighs.
Invite in the balancing breath. Taking notice of which side feels shorter, and then begin to lengthen that side (inhale or exhale) that feels shorter. Bring the breath into balance by counting to four on the inhale and four on the exhale.
Once you have established a comfortable rhythm, relinquish the counting. Perhaps invite in a slower or longer rhythm, to expand and open, for 10 rounds of breath. Release, and return back to a natural rhythm.
By layering in the simple breathing practice of balancing, invite in the healing energy of prana (life force) and invoke a state of calmness in the mind. Filling the body with loving possibility and carrying that intention through the breath to your true self, fill your heart center with purpose and direction.
As you exhale, visualize that which no longer serves you leaving your body in one long black stream, surrendering it over to the earth. The earth doesn’t view this energy as good or bad, but simply energy, and knows exactly what to do with it. As you inhale, breathe in the warm light of prana and feel a warmth at your heart center. Visualize the path the breath travels down the throat through the lungs before ruminating and reversing the path back out.
Exhale surrendering. Inhale the nutrients to feed the seeds of change.
With each round of breath, feel your bija grow and grow and grow. Perhaps visualize what it would feel like to have this intention come true. Rest in that space until your alarm brings you back into the body.
Take a moment to notice how you feel after taking the time for self-care, slowing down, connecting and creating the space to truly heal.
Author: Erin Elizabeth Labadie
Editor: Toby Israel
Photo: Used with permission from Vanessa Cerday Photography