Yoga as a healing practice

Esther Ekhart explains how practising yoga from a place of awareness can transform our practice and our lives.

From doing to feeling

For me, yoga is an awareness practice. When I practise yoga, I take a moment to consciously shift from a thinking state into a feeling state, shifting my awareness from my head into my heart. This action itself puts me in touch with presence, the source of life. As soon as you are in touch with presence, yoga becomes a healing practice.

Why don’t you join me right now, to experience what I mean? Please take your awareness into your head, and then allow it to travel down along the back of the head, through the back of the neck and throat. Then allow your awareness to land in your heart. You can do this with your eyes closed, or while you are reading. Next, notice how you start to feel your body from deep inside, how you start to become aware of the breath and the sensations of aliveness within your body. In this very simple way, you can shift from “doing” to consciously letting it happen and “being” in the moment more.  

When you approach your yoga practice from a perspective of awareness, or ‘presence’, your mind starts to calm down and become more coherent, more present. I believe that the greatest healing occurs when you have a relaxed and coherent mind.

Cultivate a healthy mind

When the mind is chaotic and restless, the lens through which we view the world is similarly chaotic and restless. When you clear the lens (the mind) and it becomes calm and coherent, it reflects the very same back to you. With a lens that is clean and mirror-like, you begin to see the truth of the moment, rather than the mind’s interpretation of that moment.

There is so much emphasis on our physical body in relation to healing, what to eat, how much exercise we should take, etc. Of course, the body is very important but I feel there is too little emphasis on how to cultivate and maintain a healthy mind. You may have a well-functioning and healthy body, but if your mind is confused, full of fear and fuelled by chaos and restlessness, then you are most likely not happy. When your mind is healthy, clear and calm, you have much more chance of being happy. Even if your physical body is unwell, having a healthy mind means you’ll be better equipped to deal with it, to accept it with loving kindness and make the best of the situation. So how we look after our mind is of tremendous importance.

Happiness is not dependent on outer circumstances and our different life experiences. It is dependent on our ability to be with life as it is.

Happiness is not dependent on outer circumstances and our different life experiences. It is dependent on our ability to be with life as it is. To show up for life as it arises, being present and aware, without the need to change it or distract ourselves.

All most of us want in our life is to find peace within ourselves and the world around us. This is directly linked to our ability to be with ourselves, which is a lot easier when your mind is clear, calm and coherent. Think about it, who wants to be with her/himself or life if all you feel and experience is chaos, restlessness and confusion?

Focus on the breath

To access awareness while doing yoga, make the choice to focus on the breath, rather than on the thoughts, feelings, emotions or perhaps even pain. Allow the sensations, thoughts, feelings, aches and pains to be there - allow them to be experienced - but bring your awareness to the breath, while letting everything else move into the background.

If you try too hard and your mind starts to cling to the breath, you may end up avoiding feeling what’s going on in your body. It’s better to bring your awareness to your breath in a very light and gentle way while keeping your mind relaxed. Try not to grip; instead, imagine your awareness resting upon your breath like a feather on a leaf.

Try not to grip; instead, imagine your awareness resting upon your breath like a feather on a leaf.

Again, why not try this right now. Feel deep inside yourself when you are reading the following words. Notice how it’s possible to be with your breath and read this text at the same time. When you are with your breath in your body, also feel inside your body. Feel the presence of your body...

Feeling this presence hopefully triggers a longing to be with life as it shows itself in this moment. Not excluding anything; not wanting anything from it, other than what IS right now. This conscious allowing of everything to be just as it is is a real act of loving kindness to yourself and the world around you.

And if you can do that right now, you can also do it in your yoga practice.

When you connect with your breath this way, you may feel an acceptance filled with love, arising from within, for everything including your feelings, thoughts, emotions, judgments, fears, aches and pains. For everything that that is going on in your life. This deep, loving acceptance you begin to feel, for everything, can only come from the heart, from being. Remember the difference: the heart and awareness feel while the mind can only think about these things.

Practising yoga this way is a tremendous gift to yourself, it opens you up to experiencing your true nature. When we connect too little with presence, with the source of life, the body starts using fatigue, aches and pains, injury etc as a way to communicate with us. Our job as yogis is to listen. The solution is consciously connecting our being to its source: the here and now.

The more you regularly practise yoga with awareness, the more your mind and the heart will calm down and become mirror-like. The more you can be with yourself and life as it is, the more your body will refresh itself by connecting with presence - the source of life. Once you are out of your own way, life can do its natural work, bringing balance back to the body and mind.

With love and gratitude,

Esther x

Becoming aware of awareness

This simple meditation will teach you to tune into your awareness. Firstly, we become aware of whatever sensations we are experiencing. Next, we tune into our emotions and any thoughts that are present. Finally, we allow ourselves to become aware of consciousness or awareness itself. 

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