By Swami Prajñananda
My birthday is this week. A day to celebrate life. I’ve been contemplating this, starting with my body. It has changed quite a bit since I was born. It has grown as I have grown. It has learned as I have learned.
My body has served me very well, but I haven’t always served it well. Yet I need my body to live my life. My quality of life is directly affected by the care I give it. Just like a car, the better you care for it, the longer it will last and the better condition it will be in.
I have to admit, pre-yoga I was not very good at caring for my body. I pushed it to the max and beyond, many times. Even after finding yoga, I’ve been known to do this. Yet Svaroopa® yoga and meditation excel at self-care.
It starts with getting you in your body. For most of us, we live our life in our mind, which is always on the go. It can take you to the moon and back in a second. It can mire you in your most terrible memories and send you chasing after possible future scenarios. Every thought creates a castle in the sky, dragging you away from the present moment.
This is why every Svaroopa® yoga class begins with a Guided Awareness. You start with your toes, all ten toes…all at the same time. You get present in your own body from toe to top. This is so important, for your body needs your presence to be a living body.
Next you do Ujjayi Pranayama, the breathing practice that re-enlivens you. It pumps your prana, your vital life force. It’s very much like taking your car to the gas station. Without fuel, your car won’t go far. It is the same with your body. It needs to be fueled up with prana to work at full capacity.
After Shavasana and Ujjayi, you do some yoga poses which release your muscular tensions. Your aches and pains melt away, and you move more easily and fluidly. Your body is transformed. This makes a difference in your day-to-day life. Yet the truest purpose is to make you fit to explore the deeper dimensions of your being.
There is a big misconception about spirituality, that you must transcend your body. It is actually quite the opposite. For it is in your own body that you have the ability to explore your own greatness. Gurudevi says it this way in her new book, Yoga: Embodied Spirituality:
You must dive into your own body, your own mind, your own being and discover who you are
and what you are made of. Yours is such a precious body. What an extraordinary place, a
physical location, to enter into and to explore. What a great gift the body is!
Truely, your body is a great gift. You were born with a body and mind to explore the outer world as well as the inner world. We have gotten very good at focusing externally. Now it is time to use your body and mind differently, to explore inside.
Your body is a pathway inward. For when you are present in your body, you are in the here and now. In this place, in this space, in your own skin. When you look inward, deeper than your mind, you discover that you are Presence-Itself. Presence is not so limited to your idea of outside and inside. For Presence is all-expansive, all-encompassing, Existence-Itself. Yet when you are finding your own Presence, you don’t start with the macro. You start with the micro.
While a birthday is a day that we label as special, really every day is a celebration of you. You were born into a body for the precious opportunity to discover who you truly are. It is with your own body that you can do these spiritual practices. It is with your body that you can explore the inner dimensions of your own being. There is so much to discover inside. If you’re not sure where to begin, start with your toes!