I mentioned it before that yoga is my way of healing. But the topic itself is so broad. Healing from what? How? From physical pain? Emotional pain? How do we exactly heal through yoga?
There are so many things I have learnt through my yoga journey, I could not possibly put it in a simple article, but I really want to write about the process of healing.
I often get to ask the question whether people should start practicing yoga. People may have injuries, illnesses, mental health problems. So is it safe at all to practice, and if so which practice to do and how will it benefit each of these individuals with a very different background?
First of all, it’s important to understand that yoga is not only the asana practice (practicing postures) - I keep saying this over and over again, it might bore you by now but I need to clarify this before we dive deeper. Yoga has many aspects and different styles of yoga can focus on these aspects in different proportions, or they might have a different approach altogether (for example in Bhakti Yoga practitioners focus on the devotion side a lot, selfless service and so on. In Jnana Yoga the studies of spiritual textures and philosophies dominate.)
I practice and teach Ashtanga yoga, which means eight limbs of yoga starting with Yamas, Niyamas, followed by Asanas, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhayana and Samadhi. These eight limbs cover ethical living, physical practice as well as breath control and the route to meditation (and essentially enlightenment).
When it comes to healing, based on experience, it is not the destination that counts. You don’t need to reach Samadhi in order to heal yourself. It is the journey. I know this sounds corny and cliche, but bare with me.
As I am continuing my studies of yoga, yogi practices, koshas (layers of existence), the subtle body, observing my breath as well as reading spiritual texts I am broadening my awareness. My awareness towards my environment as well as myself. Without awareness change can not happen. Learning that is important, avidya (ignorance) is one of the 5 kleshas (obstacles) that stands in our way.
I don’t have a perfect recipe in how to heal mental blockages or your physical pain, but I know that the concept of karma (action-reaction) was my next step. Realising that everything that happens to me has a reason, including my pain. Again, whether it’s emotional or physical. So going back to see the reason behind my pain engaged me in searching for answers. Also important that I took responsibility for whatever I found, even if I didn’t like it.
In my healing I had to deal with one of my greatest blockage to self-love. This blockage came as a result of feeling abandoned by my father, holding onto negative thoughts such as: “I am not worthy for love” “I am not good enough” “I don’t deserve love” and so on. (This effected my relationship with myself as well as others). For years I was contemplating on how to deal with it, I avoided speaking to my father, I set mantras to myself hoping they would work but truly, I avoided the topic altogether. I was angry at the start, hurt in the middle and exhausted towards the end that resulted in me not visiting the issue altogether. I felt I was just going in circles. I had a huge hole in my heart that could not be filled.
I practiced yoga for years now, but not until I allowed myself to go so low, to cry every time I thought of it (and guess what, it turned out this thought of unworthiness was in me almost constantly), to reflect on my feelings in my asanas, in my pranayama, to look at my actions, to look at my father’s actions, and to even go back and look at his parents actions - although I don’t know a lot about them, but just seeing his side of the family.
This whole process was not pretty. It meant opening up wounds, wounds that were mostly scarring my ego I believe, that part of me that serves as a defence. Distancing myself from my tears and starting to understand happenings more on a practical level. Separating the self from the self brought me a clearer vision on what I am dealing with. Again, it is something that I learnt from yoga, although I think people do something like this with a help of a therapist.
Once separation happened, it was much easier to understand my karma. And once that happened instead of anger, I felt love. There were two stages for me. First the spiritual step.
It might be a cheesy story, regardless it happened how it did, and you can read it if you wish or just scroll.
In the lowest moment of my healing I felt lost, unloved, helpless, weak and without direction. I felt alone - even though I had amazing people around me, deep inside I felt I am unable to connect to them the way that I would have wanted to -, I disliked my job, I felt tired even before I started and absolutely drained after 6 hours of work. I couldn’t love or appreciate myself, I felt tired all the time. What scared me the most is that I lost motivation. I was always motivated, even when I was tired. The torch inside my chest was always on reminding me that I have life within and there are exciting things happening and I can part-take in them. I can make a difference, I can influence, I can grow and all will be well, I just need to keep going and I was keep going no matter what was on the outside. Not this time. I was absolutely drained and couldn’t even appreciate the Sun.
In this low moment I felt like throwing up between tears, yet I didn’t want to stop them. I just wanted them out. All the feelings, all the emotions, I was crying while mopping the floor, and essentially ended up mopping my own tears up from the floor. The image itself is pretty funny, but at that time I couldn’t care about anything. Not even how I looked, or sounded, or what image I was portraying in the middle of the restaurant. I just wanted to rid myself of those feelings. They were all the way in my stomach and made me nauseous. And at a moment, like somebody putting the TV on in front of my eyes, I saw myself sitting on the edge of a bed crying. I wasn’t alone. God sat next to me and said: “but you are loved, don’t you realise?” (I am not religious, I have been baptised but never really engaged with religious habits or the church. Although I always believed in God, no matter how we call it, the Universe, Allah, Love, Krishna, Shiva, Purusha, Brahman… To me it’s all the same.) He didn’t say by whom, I never asked, I just knew. I knew that God loves me endlessly and no matter what my experiences were in my life so far and how abandoned I felt and how long I ignored to realise the beauty of his love, now it was there, I got reminded. He held my hand while saying that. I stopped crying and never had that empty feeling in my stomach since. In fact, I feel warmth, I feel my chest is vibrating and that love is pouring out of me in all directions.
A few days later I was inspired to write. I wanted to write about how our relationships with others, family, friends, romantic relationships and even our relationships with money effects our relationships with ourselves. I am still working on that piece, but the second step happened right there under the palm trees on that sunny day. I was writing about my early experiences with my father and tried to recall why exactly I was mad all these years. The conclusion I came to is that even though I was deeply hurt, he is not a bad, evil monster. I realised that the only “bad” thing he’s ever done to me is not showing his love. Why? Did he not love me at all? I can not assume what is in his heart, but I know the past he has had and realised: he just didn’t know how to. I don’t think he doesn’t love me, I think he never learnt how to show his love, how to care and how to nurture his children. He neglected all of us because he didn’t learn the set of skills to be a father. Understanding that made me feel sorry for him. Can you imagine what it feels like not knowing how to give love? How he must feel so clogged up under his own karma that he wasn’t able to undo and alleviate himself from suffering? So right there at that point, without even consciously deciding, I felt forgiveness. I felt this release of all negativity from my past related to him and I felt I am not allowed to love myself and appreciate the things I do.
So this was my journey through healing with yoga. It wasn’t a pretty one, I went as low as I could ever in my heart. I had no hope I would be inspired again to do anything beautiful because I didn’t even want to get out of my bed. I decided to go with the flow, to not feel awkward to cry even in public. I had a second thought that maybe people would think I’m crazy, but I am an actor so I thought I could make up a story about red eyes and shaky body. I can not tell you to do the same, because this might be different for all of us and we deal with different things. You might not cry, you might get angry, or act very weird and make animal sounds or whatever flow your boat.
I also learnt that I was very much dependent on external validation. I must have been, because I didn’t learn how to take care of myself better because I kept telling myself that I am not worthy of a better life, better food, better clothes, better job. All I can do is as I am told and that is my limit. That has shifted since and now I know that all I ever need is in me. The power to gain the knowledge, to create, to change my environment, to manifest great friends and people, to influence and inspire. I have everything that I need, because I have the power to act if I need to. And as long as there is action, there will be a reaction. In fact that is the meaning of karma: action-reaction. There is no good or bad of it but you definitely need to start the doing of things. If you want to loose weight, tell yourself you can, research a healthier way of living (not a silly diet, but a lifestyle that supports a healthy mind and body. Regular exercise and better choices of food will help but you can only keep it up if you shift your mind to success.) If you have pain in your body all the time because you are overworking yourself, ask yourself why you are doing that. Distraction? Punishment? Greed? Fear of not being able to sustain your living? Maybe shifting your mind will help you see other options to earn money, learn to invest and work less or whatever the solutions can be. Again it might take time to get the answers and find balance but without doing anything about your misery your misery will stay what it is: misery. You want to take it and turn it into gold. It’s totally possible.
My step one would definitely be: awareness. Become aware about your feelings and what might cause them.
My step two would be: allowance. Allow these emotions to flow to the surface and observe them.
My step three would be: detachment. Realise that you are not your emotions and that they probably represent something that is underneath, and instead of judging yourself for feeling the way you do, just observe them and treat them with respect but respectfully let them know that they are not in charge of your life.
My step four would be: action. Act upon what you have just discovered and see how that changes your mood. I decided to write about it and while writing the process of forgiveness came because I realised through observation and research what built up the karmic pattern in my father that effected my karma. Once I took action, I realised I am in control that gave me power to shift my mood from pretty blue to cheerfully sunny.
As we say in yoga, ignorance (Avidya) is the first klesha (obstacle) that stops us from releasing karmic patterns (habits, imprints). So whatever it is you are dealing with, ignoring it will not help. It will just push problems deeper and deeper.
Karuna means an action based compassion to alleviate suffering. This includes ourselves. How could I help people if I can not even help myself? How could I inspire them if I am a dead flower inside? As I left this package behind, I quit my shitty job, said no to another shitty job and decided to pursue Karuna Yoga. To spread yoga, to teach those who want to learn, making it accessible on different platforms. Share my journey as well as all the studies I completed and can say that successfully learnt.
Healing is not easy and it’s not pretty. It takes time, effort, focus, will and most importantly patience. But we all have this beautiful power to heal our broken heart, whatever the reason be of its brokenness. You can do it, you can start it now. Without seeking the answers just allow yourself to be vulnerable, allow the process to happen when you are ready. Our minds don’t always respond to command, in fact our subconscious mind tends to have its own time zone - I found, bout I am not an expert on brain activity.
And lastly I want you to remember: it will all will be well. If you set your mind to heal, the mind will find the power to heal your heart and soul, your body and it will heal itself. Even in the weakest moments we are pretty strong. Even if we don’t realise it, we have extreme power. Healing will happen, just keep focusing on the path and trust the process.