“Yoga is the dance of every cell with the music of every breath that creates inner serenity and harmony.” ~Debasish Mridha
In the past few weeks, I’ve introduced you to the first two of the Eight Limbs of Yoga. The Yamas and Niyamas are ethical guidelines for living in harmony with all inhabitants of the earth. Things like truthfulness and cleanliness, non-harming and not stealing, self-restraint and non-attachment are all practices we can utilize to guide us toward oneness and peace, according to the teachings of the ancient yoga sage, Patanjali. But it’s the third and fourth of the Eight Limbs that are most commonly recognized; that is the poses and mindful breath.
In the ancient language of India, called Sanskrit, the poses of yoga are referred to as asanas. Originally, asana denoted a still, seated position, but nearly all known yoga postures are referred to as a form of asana. Tree pose is Vrksasana. Warrior pose is known as Virabhadrasana. Child’s pose in Sanskrit is Balasana. But what they’re called is of less importance than what the yoga postures can do for us both physically and mentally. The asana roots us in stability, while inviting flexibility.
An assortment of trees shades the yard of my parent’s home in Iowa. They are majestic Blue Spruce from Colorado, planted strategically for privacy. A goliath Hackberry, dug from the banks of the Racoon River, filters the sunrise, and multiple Silver Maples, unearthed from ditches along rural roadways, drop golden leaves in the fall. My dad liked to re-locate trees. He packed a spade as a necessary accoutrement on our family camping vacations, and he carried one alongside his fishing pole when he ventured to lakes or streams. If he was still around he could point to every tree in the forested yard and describe the location where he found it and the weather conditions on the day it was transplanted. Once the sapling was carefully placed, for either its aesthetic charm or its potential shade, he would create an intricate trench around the base to collect rainwater. He’d take a five-gallon bucket and puncture a hole near the bottom, directed to the trunk of the tree, and fill it with water. The simple bucket method leached the water slowly to the roots of the tree when the rain didn’t come.
I see the yoga postures as similar to my dad’s trees. Carefully initiated, in their connection to the earth. Creating a base that is stable and firm yet will allow growth and movement. And if our asanas are the tree, then Breath in yoga practice is the sun and the rain.
Pranayama is Patanjali’s fourth Limb of Yoga. Pranayama is life force. Pranayama is breath. To create and maintain a steady rhythm of breath is one of the most important aspects of yoga practice. When you inhale consciously, you invite the nourishment and refreshment of raw energy into your body, and as you exhale every last molecule of air from your lungs, you clean house. This flow of breath in and breath out calms the nervous system, lowers blood pressure, sharpens mental focus, and signals to your brain that you are peaceful and safe. Under the conditions of quiet and ease, harnessed though mindful breath, the body experiences strength-building, and endurance-boosting energy in an asana.
A sapling that is planted with attention to its needs will grow deep roots and wide branches. It will produce leaves, maybe fruit or flowers. A healthy tree may emit aroma or sweet sap. A well-tended tree offers beauty and focus to the beholder, protection and shelter when needed.
In our yoga practice, the asana builds a pathway between the earth and our body. Pranayama is the thread that connects the two. As we mature in our yoga practice, our physical body may grow stronger and more flexible but our mind and our heart will reap the greatest benefits of body awareness and mindful breathing. And when our minds are focused and our hearts are open, we too offer beauty to our beholders, and compassion to those in need.
When we practice yoga, we are working toward aligning our bodies, our breath, our movement, our emotions, and our mind on a common path. The path is peace. When we lose our way, we might think of a tree. Deeply rooted, vulnerable to the elements, flexible to change, and nourished from within. Carefully planted and thoughtfully nourished, we might cultivate a forest of calm.
Laurie Kasperbauer, RYT 200, enjoys the spiritual and physical benefits of yoga practice and instructs both group and private classes. Laurie is also an active Florida realtor specializing in properties in Naples and Marco Island. She can be reached at Harborview Realty, 291 S. Collier Blvd., Marco Island, or by calling 712-210-3853.