Yoga Therapy for Body, Mind & Soul

Several months ago if someone had asked me if I wanted to do a yoga teacher training I would first laugh thinking it was a nonsense idea and secondly reply: “I do not see myself as a regular teacher, imagine a yoga teacher!” I would also never imagine that I could “interrupt” my professional life for one year to travel the world and learn more about myself… Thinking about all areas of a person’s life like family, love, health, profession/education, I always felt that there was one area in which I was completely in control. The most straightforward and stable in my life, that all I had to do was give my best effort and things would happen as I wished… That was my professional/academic side. I say it “was” because in 2012, the year of my 30th birthday, I decided to shake my life completely, to surrender control and to focus entirely on my dreams and passions. It was the year I decided to train as a yoga teacher in Nepal.

Initially I thought that yoga would help me get in shape, improve my health and give me a peaceful feeling inside. That was what I usually felt in my weekly yoga classes in Mexico. I ended up finding through yoga what I was looking for during my six-month trip in Asia: a holistic healing method that helps balance body, mind and soul.

Yoga Benefits to the BODY

Tree Pose Yoga Bali Beach Trip We Love

Yoga benefits to the body are probably the most obvious ones. What was surprising to me, though, was that literally everyone had some sort of ailment during the yoga training. Our teacher Gaby mentioned that it is quite common for that to happen. One of the books I read after the training called Integral Healing, by Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, mentions exactly why this happens. When you are in an intense training, trying to grow mentally and spiritually, to increase your level of consciousness, it is common that the body does not follow the rhythm of the mind. So disease occurs.

To help prevent disease from occurring, shatkarma is an important part of yoga. You must first purify the whole body, and then you can practice self-discipline and self-control. You need to prepare yourself first so that you have the right quality of mind.  A sattvic diet is also important. I have always tried to have a somewhat healthy diet, but before starting my one-year holistic healing journey around the world my diet was very rajastic and even tamasic I would say. Before the yoga training I spent one month in Thailand doing an intense physical detoxification. It included a one-week fasting, abdominal massages and 14 colemas. I also stopped eating all kinds of animal meat, sugar and processed foods.  It was not an easy task; I was grumpy and hungry all the time in the beginning. On my fourth fasting day, however, I felt blissed. I think I never felt so good in my life. My mind was working very quickly, my body was light, my skin bright… It surprised me how cleaning the body also affects the mind. It also struck me that no medical doctors recommended me to stop ingesting acid-forming foods. They told me to avoid acidic fruits, for example, which are actually alkaline-forming food. Anyway, during that time I had great insights about why I had so many “belly” problems during my childhood and throughout life.

Constipation used to be a common ailment of mine. Through yoga I learned that asanas can also help you heal your body. I started practicing specific postures early in the morning and also Thai massage that help keep my colon healthy. In a more subtle level, asanas also help to move prana or energy throughout the body. When prana stagnates anywhere in the hody, it is the breeding ground for bacteria and other diseases to flourish. According to Hatha Yoga Pradipika and Hindu spiritual text Charak Samhita, there are five types of vayus or winds, which govern different functions. Prana emanates from the heart and controls breathing, especially the inhalation. Samana, centered in the diaphragm, drives digestion. Apana relates to elimination of bodily wastes. Udana moves upward from the throat and governs speech. Vyana is tied to the circulatory system and transports vitality and nourishment to all of the cells.

Besides choosing asanas that will help move energy where you need it the most, it is also beneficial to choose postures according to your dosha. According to Dr. David Frawley, Ayurveda, yoga’s sister science, is one of the most remarkable holistic medical systems in the world. It includes methods of self-healing from diets, herbs, exercise, lifestyle routines and yogic practices. Ayurveda shows us how to attain optimal health not for superficial enjoyment but to provide a wholesome foundation and sufficient energy to embrace self-realization. Conserving energy in the physical body is a very important aspect of health, which has been ignored by most of the healing sciences.

During my 6 weeks yoga training we did a SWAN meditation to better observe our own strengths, weaknesses, ambitions and needs in all levels (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual). From this meditation I developed my sadhana or spiritual practice.  After our trip in Asia, we planned to travel to Africa by motorcycle, from Cape Town to Cairo. In order to be ready for it, I had to strengthen my back, keep my digestive system healthy and calm my mind. I started practicing my sadhana 2 months before the motorcycle trip and I was impressed to see the difference it made in my body! It is common for new motorcycle riders to have back pains, sore buttocks and stiff backs. Surprisingly, I was in perfect shape. The best thing is that I can take my daily practice anywhere I go. All I need is a space to roll out my mat.

Yoga Benefits to the MIND

Happy Yogi Nepal

In addition to physical benefits, the goal of yoga is to control the mind. I will never forget what I felt the first time I practiced mantra yoga during a kiirtan session. As you chant, you empty your mind, fill your heart with love and your cells with an uplifting vibration. New and old emotions are aroused and let go in a deep experience. It was amazing how all the mantras that we practiced during our training were absorbed by my mind and I catch myself chanting them inside very often, especially when riding on the motorcycle. I remember that shortly after leaving Nepal I was in a 5-star hotel in Bali by the beach and I felt hollow. It was as if that new space had no energy, nothing, as if it were empty. That was when I realized the powerful energy of the simple house we had been living for the last months. Creating my own altar, with all the elements that were meaningful to me, became fundamental.

According to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, “yoga is the cessation of the fluctuation of the mind”. To me, one of the best ways to achieve this is through pranayama exercises. By regulating the breath it is possible to regulate the prana in the body. I use ujjayi breathing during parts of my sadhana to improve concentration, calm my mind and surrender into the postures.

After an intense yoga training, being surrounded by people with a similar vibration, peace of mind and lightness, it was a little tricky to maintain the peace created in my practice, specially dealing with people who are not very spiritual. I was disappointed at myself in two situations in which people treated me poorly and with an aggressive energy and instead of keeping myself centered, I succumbed to their vibration. I wish I were able, in these moments, to practice pratyahara, to withdraw my senses, to just observe my emotions and let them go. In other occasions I have managed to place my hand in my belly, in front of manipura chakra, to help calm down my anger and do not let my ego jump out. One of the books I read after the training is called “Los Cuatro Acuerdos” by Don Miguel Ruiz. It has a beautiful message about how you should not judge others, make assumptions or suppositions and you should always give your best effort. When I let myself drown into their energies I was judging their behavior and making assumptions about their intention. Instead of doing that, I could have calmly tried to understand what caused their reaction, sent love and light to their anahata chakras and solve any misunderstandings in a collaborative manner.

These episodes made me think of the 5 kleshas, or primal causes of suffering, which are ignorance, ego, desire, repulsion and clinging to life. It also made me think about how I had to open myself more to others, to see us as one and to find more understanding through love. This was one of the reasons I decided to do a workshop called “Embodying this Love” by Michael King. The purpose of the course was to close the gap between who you were, which is closer to your essence, and who you have become. The gap closes naturally once we stop doing the things that once got us there. We need to loose resistance. Quiet the mind. Approach yourself as a curious observer while you meditate. That reminded me of Jnana yoga. Self-inquiry, questioning, puts you in “open mode”. When your mind is centered you are the boss. You need to ask yourself: Are these thoughts coming from my heart? When I think this thought how does my body feel? Emotions serve as an indicator of the values of the thoughts you are thinking. Fear holds on. Love lets go. You should see your emotions as energy in motion and just let it go. Closing the gap is a deep process of surrender.

You don’t get what you want. You get what you are being. According to Michael, when you want something you become empty so you will try to get more of that. You must feel as if you already have it. Through focus you can change your state of being without necessarily changing the outside world. The Gita also covers the concept of shraddha, which means faith or “that which is placed in the heart”. It is the set of values, principles that one holds deeply within. As we think, so we become. “We live in what we love”.

Yoga Benefits to the SOUL

South Africa Wild Coast Trip We Love

This brings us to the soul. Besides improving body and mind, yoga benefits our spiritual being. According to David Frawley, “yoga is first and foremost a science of self-realization. Its concern is spiritual practice, mainly through meditation, to take us beyond the sorrow and ignorance of the world. It teaches us to move from our outer bodily and ego-bound identity to our immortal Self that dwells within the heart. Yoga provides the key to all spiritual development, which in Vedic sense is gaining knowledge of our true nature beyond time, space, death and suffering.”

Yoga helps to bring us closer to our true purpose in life, our swadharma. When we are following our own path we become more connected to the universe and things flow, as we desire. Looking back, it is pretty amazing to me how my partner and I decided to give ourselves a break from the corporate world at the same time and how our journey is unfolding. Without consciously planning it, we started taking care of our bodies in Asia (through detox, fasting and diet), then of our minds (by studying topics that interest us and learning more about yoga) and now traveling across Africa we have the opportunity to answer our soul calling to do good to others. To contribute to a world where children DO have a future, in which preventable disease are PREVENTED and healthcare REACHES EVERYONE, EVERYWHERE.

When we arrived in Cape Town, where we started our motorcycle trip to Cairo, a motorcyclist who we met through an online Forum picked us up at the airport. He hosted us at his farm, cooked for us, showed us around, and also helped us to get mentally ready for the journey. We have been meeting angels like him on our way and it reminds me of karma yoga. We put our intention out to serve and we are being served. Selfless giving is beautiful and fulfilling.

Karma, the law of moral causation, seems flawless, and the best way to burn samskaras is through our yamas and niyamas. According to Vedic philosophy, there are four main desires within every person: perform dharma (social, ethical), artha (acquirement of wealth), kama (gratification of sensual desire) and moksha (liberation). These are the four paths to a happy life. I feel that throughout my life I have dedicated substantial time to the first three but I still have a lot of work to be done to achieve liberation. Being in places and seeing people who have so little makes it easier for us to dethatch from material possessions. This was the first time in my life that I had the courage to cut my hair short, to share my life 24 hours a day with someone, to live for several months with one pair of shoes and a couple of clothes, to share bathrooms, to accept so many favors from strangers, to “publish” my personal life online and to be truly open and grateful for everything that comes my way.

The thread through Krishna’s teaching, the essence of the Bhagavad Gita, can be given in one word: renunciation. One can become free by giving up not material things but selfish attachments to material things and to people. One should work free from selfish motives. This purifies the mind, unifies consciousness and rids one of ego. This path of selfless action will eventually lead into self-realization. “Do your work with the welfare of others always in mind…those who take wisdom as their highest goal, whose faith is deep and whose senses are trained, attain wisdom quickly and enter into perfect peace.” The goal of all work is spiritual wisdom.

 

Inner awakening can only occur when there is complete stillness and steadiness in body, mind and soul. Yoga creates balance in the physical body, mind and energy, enabling sushumna nadi, our central force responsible for the evolution of human consciousness, to awaken. Hatha Yoga helps one see that Body, Mind and Soul are not three but one.

Our one-year journey is shortly coming to an end. I am not sure what the future reserves to us. I do believe, however, in what the book Course in Miracles teaches; that “life is self organizing and self correcting”. Life knows all the details of what we want so we just need to think about general emotions, desires, and if they are aligned with our swadharmas, the universe will find a way of bringing it to us. Regardless of all the changes that may come my way in the upcoming months, I will keep yoga as part of my lifestyle and I hope to be able to share with others all the love, peace and kindness that I cultivate. Om tat sat.

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Comments

  1. Eliane Caricio says:

    Tarci,

    Seus depoimentos sempre nos surpreendendo…
    A clareza das suas palavras nos tocam profundamente.
    Felizes os que compartilham dessa maravilhosa caminhada.

    Salva, nosso carinho e agradecimento eterno.

    Filha, somos gratos ao Divino por ser seus pais!
    Deus a ilumine sempre!
    Stuart e Eliane

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