Rooting Breath & Healing

Svadhyaya (Self Study) @ home

Svadhyaya (Self Study) @ home

"Exhalation is the surrender of our ego. It is not the expulsion of air but the expulsion of ego in the form of air. In exhalation, you become humble, whereas pride comes in inhalation."
—B.K.S. Iyengar, The Tree of Yoga

When I was healing from my surgeries post cancer, it wasn't the Chaturanga--Upward Dog sequence that I pridefully longed for, but was suddenly unable to do that helped me. It was my ability to sit, rest and restore my breath that began to bring me back. Eventually, I was able to surrender and show up for the therapeutic yoga for cancer ( class that I had pre-judged as a wimpy. Clearly, my ignorance and bruised ego were blatantly large as that class both rocked and humbled me to my core.  The class was appropriately hard and specifically targeted ALL that I needed physically and mentally. I had a limited range of motion and was quite angry about the huge imposition that cancer quickly made on my life. Through acceptance, I became humble enough to realize that I was indeed quite lucky. I already had a practice that is rooted in a sense of personal dharma and belief in the 8-Limbs of yoga that I deeply value. So, I took a breath — (a lot of them), returned to my practice with a new perspective, started over cancer free and came out stronger!

Yoga in its detail is an incredible 3-part therapeutic tool. To understand its intention, I like to revisit 'The Tree of Yoga' by B.K.S. Iyengar. I love this book and the breakdown of the yoga practice in its 8-limbs. Its comparison to the parts of a tree is a beautiful explanation that has remained helpful and incredibly relevant for me in many ways.

1. Yamas: Connection to Family & Community (ie: Root of Tree)
Caring for others, the teachers, staff and students who practice at PS Yoga Center, became my anchor, my comfort and support. I felt best while less focused on myself and was able to re-connect through a community that cancer had attempted, but failed to rip from my life. 

2. Niyamas: Connection to Self (ie: Trunk of Tree)
Teachers and students, each dedicated to their own practices humbled me daily as I healed. Their showing up encouraged and inspired me to return to and commit to my practice (again) in whatever way that I could.

3. Asana: Physical Practice (ie: Branches of Tree)
Starting 'over' in my body with simple asana towards a therapeutic end strengthened my physical, mental and emotional body. Through the benefits of yoga, I bounced back faster than my doctors understood. My entire practice currently feels stronger overall.

4. Pranayama:  Science of Breath (ie: Leaves of Tree)
The breath basically helped me to weave my mind into an new understanding of my body. And, it was at that first therapeutic class, where once again breathing and moving in a room with other people, my broken pieces began to come back together. 

5. Pratyahara: Withdrawl From Senses (ie: Bark of the Tree)
6. Dharana: Concentration (ie: Sap of Tree - linking all portions) 
7. Dhyana: Meditation (ie: Flower of Tree)
Going inward is the best way to discover where our center is, and to strengthen it. At each stage, because our feelings and experiences are constantly changing, it is necessary for us to sit with ourselves on a regular basis. This is how we find ourselves, the essence of who we are and what we want. Stillness and quiet are beneficial to the mind, body and spirit.

8. Samadhi: Bliss (ie: Flower turned into Fruit of the Tree)
They say that only a few will ever arrive at Samadhi but when all is in balance. Bliss is the sweetest and highest form of existence!

Yoga continues to support my life and my foundation is more rooted. While changes continue to happen for us all, we must learn to adjust our lives in order to support the ways in which we want to live in the long term. Towards longevity however, we can be prepared to surprise ourselves while re-connecting to who we truly are. The growth and gratitude that we achieve along the way is the measure that is life. "The ultimate goal of yoga is to realize the brilliance of your soul...Begin where you are." (Patricia Walden & Manouso Manos, Forward, The Tree of Life by B.K.S. Iyengar) 


Teri Gandy-Richardson