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Join me in the third week of our seven-week series exploring the Yoga of Resilience, Resistance, and Recovery. I am offering this series in all of my current weekly classes: Wednesdays at 5:30 and 7pm, and Saturdays at 10:30am. If you missed class last week, you can still jump in and join us. While the series provides optimum benefit if you are able to attend all sessions, each class is designed as a complete offering unto itself.
Yoga is a profoundly elegant, comprehensive and holistic system for experiencing vitality, complete freedom, and wholeness. It is a path and process.
It is precisely these things – a path, a process, a comprehensive system – that so many of us need right now. We are being called to a level of healing and recovery that is profound and uncharted. We are being called to the Next Level of resistance to oppression, requiring Next Level commitments to resilience as well. Read why we need this work more than ever in these times.
Last week, we began to explore the individual tenets that Durga Leela, founder of Yoga of Recovery, has codified. These tenets help to structure the work of resilience/resistance/recovery by speaking to the nature of human experience – acknowledging exactly where and how we suffer – and pointing to the tools of Yoga, Ayurveda, and the 12 steps which meet us at the level of our suffering. These tenets recognize the natural energies of manifestation/existence/the human condition, as well as the ways those energies can go awry, and the yogas that best allow us to express those energies in a more conscious (sattvic) way.
The first tenet, Life is Longing, speaks directly to our innate longing to know our own True Nature, to know Spirit. Durga tells us, if we don’t honor the longing with space and time, it will corrupt into craving. So last week we explored the paths of yoga which support us in honoring the longing – specifically, bhakti yoga (the yoga of devotion) and jnana yoga (the yoga of knowledge or self-study). These paths assist us in creating the time and space that is essential for syncing up with Spirit on a regular, daily, moment-to-moment basis.
This week, we explore Life is Prana. We acknowledge the reality that breath is life, Life Force, Spirit. Prana is the vital energy that breaths all thing to life. Understanding our pranic states can help us understand our addictive behaviors. We naturally seek to avoid pain and seek pleasure, on some level it is fundamental to our experience. When we are tired, wired, stressed or in pain, we naturally seek some relief. When we’re tired, we seek stimulation. When wired, we seek sedation. In stress, we seek instant gratification. When we experience pain – whether physical or psychological – we seek self-medication.
Again, we look at the level of our suffering and find the tools of Yoga and Ayurveda to provide balm for our pain, specifically yoga asana (postures) and pranayama (breathwork), along with increasing the intake of prana through healthy foods. Instead of relying on cheap substitutes, we must go to the Source. Whether tired, wired, stressed, or in pain, the “medication” is prana. We must build up the capacity to self-soothe and self-regulate in ways that are life-giving (self-constructive) rather than self-destructive.
It is as close and available as your next breath, the reset you need to change your stress response in the moment – to move you out of a perpetual cycle of fight/flight/freeze and into a space that is more apt for sustainable self-regulation and higher states of thinking and problem solving. Where your attention goes, your prana flows. Thus, part of the medication that the Yoga of Resilience/Resistance/Recovery provides is to recognize that we can sustainably build prana through the overall orientation of our lives. Specifically, we experience greater flows of prana – which feel like enthusiasm and joy arising within us – when we lead meaningful lives rooted in a higher purpose of service, of healing and liberation for all beings.
This Yoga reminds us, we must honor ourselves as not just spiritual beings but also energetic beings. As a pranic being, we must take charge of (responsibility for) our prana. Thus, at this level, the practices are not about God and philosophy but about body and breath. We start by examining the ways our sources of prana are corrupted – our air and water are increasingly polluted and threatened, the purity and nutrition in our food is compromised, touch is a virtual taboo in our culture, and the airwaves are full of toxic sound – not the least of which, our own negative self-talk which pollutes the ether of our own minds.
In this way, all acts which seek to protect our natural and healthy sources of prana – by defending water and air, by preserving the health of our food and soil, by advocating for safe and healthy access to touch in all its forms, and by working to support truth-telling and integrity in thought and word – all of these are acts of spiritual and energetic resistance. They are acts which seek the collective liberation of all beings. None of us is free until all of us is free. None of us can be ensured access to healthy prana if these sources are threatened anywhere, in any way. We are utterly connected in this web, no artificial boundary will save us from that.
In this way, all acts which seek to protect our natural and healthy sources of prana – by defending water and air, by preserving the health of our food and soil, by advocating for safe and healthy access to touch in all its forms, and by working to support truth-telling and integrity in thought and word – all of these are acts of spiritual and energetic resistance.
On an individual level, we can work to increase healthy prana (HP) through myriad simple practices. Acknowledging that our immune system develops based on touch, we can find ways to bring more healthy, loving and nurturing touch into our lives through practices such as abhyanga (oil self-massage) or asking for/offering consensual hugs. In moments of craving, we can take ten deep breaths, drink a glass of water, or take a quick walk or stretch break. All of these are about changing the energy of the moment, making us more bioavailable for a hit of prana – the hit we are really craving. We can shape a morning ritual that includes pranayama, meditation, drinking water and eating food before we take in coffee. We can work with mantra, affirmation, in order to create our own inner environment, our own background sound, raising the vibration of our inner space. We can strive to eat a diet that is as whole and uncompromised as our time and budget allows.
At this level of Resilience/Resistance/Recovery, we are building our vessels from the inside out. These practices provide us with a way to fund our efforts with the only truly sustainable fuel there is. Health is habits, and if we make a habit of establishing ourselves in sattva through consciously seeking healthy prana, then we will have all the resource we need to stay in the work for the long haul. The boundaries of our vessels will be strong but permeable. The quality of our thoughts will be elevated. We will simply have more energy, more vitality for whatever our work in the world is – for however we will fulfill our higher purpose of service, of working towards healing and liberation for all beings.
Life is prana. Life seeks life. Let’s seek it out together.