1. Your new book is Yoga's Healing Power. What
inspired you to write about yoga's ability to heal?
Culturally, we tend to put a lot of emphasis
on the external, and we've done the same thing with yoga. The poses are
wonderful—they open and strengthen the body, and that is beautiful and
important. However, the life-changing aspects of a regular yoga
practice are not about the poses, they're about your process. What
happens for you when you can't do a pose easily, and the person next to
you can? What happens when you wobble or fall? Can you practice
patience and compassion for yourself, or do you struggle with a loud
inner critic? As a yoga teacher, though, I can't tell you how many
times someone has said to me, "I can't do yoga because I can't touch my
toes!" I wanted to write this book to offer the concepts, philosophy,
and practices that have most helped me understand myself, lean into
those places where I still had healing to do so that my pain wouldn't
own me for the rest of my life, and create a life that feels wonderful
to me. I don't believe there's one formula for happiness that works for
everyone, but I do believe this practice can help anyone find her or
his own way. Ultimately, we all want to be happy, and to feel our lives
have meaning and purpose. Yoga is not about the external, it's an
inward journey. If you create peace within yourself, if you feel at
ease and comfortable in your own skin, then you can offer up the best
of yourself to the world around you. I think the world needs each of us
to do that right now.
is yoga able to heal? Are we able to heal physical ailments as well as
emotional or spiritual ones?
Whatever your issues are (and we all have
them!), you don't "check them at the door" when you unroll your mat;
they show up with you. So if you do struggle with a loud inner critic,
for example, that voice will follow you onto your mat. If you fall out
of a pose, or can't do it the way the person in front of you is doing
it, that voice will be right there to berate you. It could be that you
are so used to this that you don't even question it. Maybe when you
move through your day and make a mistake, your inner voice says "Idiot!
Why did you say that or do that?!" That's a tough way to live, but it
might be habitual for you. Most habits happen outside our awareness.
Yoga is a listening practice. You breathe consciously, and just by
tuning into your breath, you become present; the inhales and exhales
happen in the now. When you're present and listening, you may be
surprised by what arises, and with awareness comes the power to choose.
You don't have to listen to that nasty voice. You can start to feed a
loving and compassionate voice. Having an inner voice that cheers you
on instead of one that tears you down is life-changing. So that's one
example. And yes, you may notice physical habits, as well. If you
notice that every time the teacher cues you to notice your neck muscles
you have to relax your neck, you now know you habitually carry tension
in your neck, and probably also your shoulders and the hinge of your
jaw. Once you know you do that, it becomes easier to check in
throughout the day, and relax your shoulders while driving, or counting
money at the checkout line, or making dinner.
Additionally, you may find that when you
begin to release tension from an area of the body where you've been
holding tension for years, some emotion is released as well. The body
has been with us through everything. If you're upset, that upset is
manifested somewhere physically. Maybe you have shallow
chest-breathing, or you clench your jaw or fists, or you furrow your
brow. The mind-body connection is always there. Sometimes we "sit on"
or repress our rage or shame or grief, and then we go into a hip-opener
toward the end of class and find ourselves crying. The potential for
healing on your mat, and off of it, is enormous.
3. Why are the spiritual
aspects of yoga just as important as the physical aspects?
Click here to read
the full interview.
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A bath is more than a physical cleansing; it's your
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