By Jennie Williford
Pranayama Yoga Studio
Yoga has taught me many things over the years, but amid the running commentary about national health care, I am continuously grateful yoga has empowered me to understand what overall health care really means and has given me the tools to accomplish it.
When I think of “health care,” it is not a “plan” I will use when I get sick or a looming governmental/societal issue; it is a daily experience of what I eat and what I do and even how I breathe.
The eight limbs of yoga teach us much about how the body works, how the mind works, and how to deal with issues that might arise in each. It can be a powerful practice to help us in this struggle of day-to-day living.
From simply learning complete sauca (cleanliness) to more complex practices like pranayama (breath control) and dhyana (meditation), all aspects of yoga teach us to look within for the answers to our many human issues. It is one thing to hear about a good diet or a proper exercise, to read what is “good” or “bad” for us, but what if diets, fads or crazes don’t work? What if “cold turkey” and sheer denial fails us every time? How can we absolutely “know” what is healthy or not healthy for us as an individual and make choices that will take us in the right direction of personal health care? I think yoga shows us the way.
Yoga brings awareness, and this deeper awareness is what can lead to making better choices for ourselves. I am sure the caffeine I drank always made me physically shaky and mentally anxious, but it was the practice of yoga that made me pay attention to those things, ultimately annoying me enough to cut it out of my diet.
The way I sat and the way I stood might always have contributed to the pain in my knees or the crick in my back, but it is yoga that has given me the know-how to correct my movement, preventing further injury and pain. Because of my practice of yoga, there has been a natural progression to many things healthier and more productive in my life, all of them from a natural evolution of practice and not from any external force.
Through each step of yoga, we become aware of ourselves from the outside in and the inside out. Sauca, or cleanliness, is important because when we are aware enough to actually “feel dirty” both outside and inside, we want to correct it. Knowing that more of our health comes from the cleanliness of our internal organs than the cleanliness of our outer bodies, being more internally aware can contribute much to our personal health care.
Asana, the practice of postures, teaches us to move better and, therefore, prevent certain injuries, aches and pains. Sutra II.16 in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali even states that “The pains which are yet to come can be and are to be avoided.”
Pratyahara, or drawing the senses in, teaches us to detach from all the external “noise” that is constantly coming at us and choose the entertainments and company we know feed us instead of drain us. Through this, the mind becomes healthy, more quiet and at peace.
Pranayama, or the regulation of the breath, ties the mind and the body together, bringing them into balance. The breath is the life force of the body, and the lungs are the power behind that breath. Physically maintaining lung capacity and strength and becoming more aware of our own breath tendencies can have vast effects on overall emotional states and energy levels.
It is important to remember and acknowledge that we are in charge of our own health care. We must choose our own personal plan that will be helpful to us on a daily basis, one that may prevent certain future ailments before they happen, and give us a better outlook on life in a very tangible way. So, while those in Washington debate about the national plan, it may be a good idea to look within, take control and make your own health care plan.
From the September 30 – October 6, 2009 issue