Spirit, or being “Spiritual,” is not an act of obtaining something outside of yourself or a search for something you can’t see or feel. Spirit is inside you in the form of your breath. Spirit is You. It is your vitality that animates You – pulsing through you, all around you, never failing in support. Spirituality is “remembering” on a daily basis that as you feel and observe your breath you are connected to the greater universal pulse of life. The practice of yoga and mindfulness can soften your edges and begin to dissolve the crust around your heart so that you can open up to the experience of this amazing radiance.
Rhythm and pulsation are intrinsic to all life, from the beating of bacterial cilia to the alternating cycles of photosynthesis and respiration in plants, to the circadian rhythms of our own body and its biochemistry. These rhythms of the living world are embedded within the larger rhythms of the planet itself, the ebb and flow of the tides, the carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen cycles of the biosphere, the cycles of night and day, the seasons. Our very bodies are joined with the planet in a continual rhythmic exchange as matter and energy flow back and forth between our bodies and what we call “the environment.”
Someone once calculated that, on the average, every seven years all the atoms in our body have come and gone, replaced by others from outside of us. This in itself is interesting to think about: What are we if little of the substance of our bodies is the same in any decade of our lives?
One way this exchange of matter and energy happens is through breathing. With each breath, we exchange carbon dioxide molecules from inside our bodies for oxygen molecules from the surrounding air: waste disposal with each out-breath, renewal with each in-breath. If this process is interrupted for more than a few minutes, the brain becomes starved for oxygen and undergoes irreversible damage.
The breath has a very important partner in its work, namely the heart. Think of it this way: this amazing muscle never stops pumping during our entire lifetime. It begins beating in us long before we are born and it just keeps on beating, day in and day out, year in and year out without a pause, without a rest for our entire life!
As with the breath, the heartbeat is a fundamental life rhythm. The heart pumps the oxygen-rich blood from the lungs via the arteries and their smaller capillaries to all the cells of the body, supplying them with oxygen they need to function. As the red blood cells give up their oxygen, they load up with the carbon dioxide that is the major waste product of all living tissue. The carbon dioxide is then transported back to the heart through the veins and from there pumped to the lungs, where it is discharged into the atmosphere on the out-breath. This is followed by another in-breath, which again
oxygenates the hemoglobin carrier molecules that will be pumped throughout the body with the next contraction of the heart. This is literally the pulse of life in us, the rhythm of the primordial sea internalized, the ebb and flow of matter and energy in our bodies.
The breath plays an extremely important role in mindfulness and healing. Breathing is an incredibly powerful ally and teacher in the practice. The fundamental pulsations of the body are particularly fruitful to focus on during yoga practice because they are so intimately connected with the experience of being alive.
Yoga provides for self reflection, allowing students to become aware of their body, their feelings, and their surrounding. This makes people more in tune to their own needs as well as the needs of others.
What this results in is empowerment. As the old saying “knowledge is power” goes, knowledge of self promotes a person’s ability to achieve. When a person truly knows who they are, they are able to play a vital role in who they become.
While many people find themselves waiting for the perfect moment to be on a spiritual path – when the kids are older, when a new job is obtained, when summer comes – the time is really NOW, in this blessed moment to tune inward and remember that your spirit is as close as your breath.
The practice of yoga and mindfulness teaches people to not only do things that help them on a physical level, but also on an emotional and spiritual level. This knowledge is, ultimately, the stepping stones people need to fully integrate their mind, body, emotions and spirit. Mind-Body integration is not just a personal health strategy; it is a potentially evolutionary movement of consciousness and spirituality.
TWISTED is a medical yoga studio at the Center for Osteopathic Medicine in Boulder, Colorado. Twisted integrates osteopathic medicine, hatha yoga and mindfulness practices to teach optimal balance between physical, mental, and emotional health. It aims to
educate and help people to live a healthy life from the inside out. Rehabilitation programs offer a comprehensive treatment regime for the whole being, empowering each person one breath at a time to stimulate the body’s natural healing potential.
Jennifer Jordan is senior editor of for http://www.yogatwisted.com. Specializing in articles that not only teach yoga techniques, but also teach techniques on fulfillment and enrichment, she aims to educate students proudly enrolled in the school of life.