Yoga helps us calm down. Whether it’s restorative yoga, a yoga workout in a class, or following along at home on a yoga video, it’s the perfect antidote for a busy life—particularly for a creative, artist’s life, the challenges of which I write about in this blog all the time.
It’s so valuable for one simple reason: yoga lets us put our brain on the shelf for a while so we can let go into our heart’s and our body’s intelligence.
Our body and heart have “intelligence?” Oh yes, they do.
Yoga Nidra—or the practice of meditation, literally defined in the Sanskrit as Yoga Nidre Sleep—means that we’re allowing our self to be transported, if you will, into the land of our interior knowing; the land of meditative awareness. It means that we step outside of the daily-ness of of our life’s check-them-off-as-quickly-as-we-can list items, and we stop. It doesn’t mean we don’t move; it means that we use yoga movements to meditatively step outside of time a bit, and to give ourselves over to a flow of interior awareness.
If that sounds rather cosmic and ethereal to you, then let’s put it in a more down-to-earth framework. We, in America in particular, tend to have an ethic of putting all of our eggs into the brain bucket. We identify our “self” as our brain or “mind,” and we tend to downplay the value of the sensed world: intuition, sensibility, knowing-before-we-know, bodily awareness. We also tend to marginalize what we colloquially refer to as our “heart”—the place where our impulses, needs, personality quirks, uniqueness and yearning stem from.
And we need our heart’s and body’s input. We need to know when it’s time to get out of that job that’s killing our soul, and find something simpler. We need to listen when our crazy and vague approach to our finances is wearing down our ability to be happy in our daily life and is making us sick to our stomach. We need to be able to respond when we can’t sleep and our heart is crying, “Get me out of this debilitating relationship before I collapse under the strain!”
And yoga helps us to do that. It helps us calm down, and look at what’s going on, and step outside it, and bring some human peace to both our body and our soul. It’s a simple, take-time-out set of movements that somehow, with its rather miraculous flow, lets us put our brain aside for an hour or so, and then lets us listen while we move, to what’s going on inside us. It encourages us to move out in the world and to take time to really see it—to see its beauty and grace, as well as its challenges—and to revel in the gift of being alive.
That’s what we mean when we say yoga is restorative. It brings us back to our self. It helps let us in on how we’re doing, and lets us find acceptance for our humanity. It is, in its essence, much more than a set of flowy movements that improves our posture and our muscle tone. It is a gateway—no matter how we practice it—into the beauty of our own self, the nature of our own body, heart, spirit, and life.