The Context of Your Reality In Your Body And With Your Breath
You live in your body.
Every experience that you have in your day to day life will be in your body. Your body is an expression of what you eat, how you live, where you are born, your ancestry, human history and evolution, and is a historical recorder of your personal life journey.
If you consume a certain number of calories in proportion to your activity level, or have eaten wholesome versus processed foods that lack nutritional value, your body will reflect this. If you eat more calories than what is required on a daily basis for a consistent amount of time and then do not engage in physical activity that burns these calories, your body will show this. If you have been this way consistently over time, maybe your skin will then stretch to accommodate your physical expansion and you will then have remnant skin where fats use to be if you skink to a smaller size at a later time by reducing your calories intake and/or increasing your level of activity.
If you face an injury and lose a limb, you will then have to live without that limb for the rest of your life. Your body, the complex mechanical vessel through which you navigate through Earthly life will tell the story of your lived experience.
Every experience, that you have is lived and expressed within your body, including your emotional experiences. Even though emotional experiences are more subtle expressions that are easily forgotten compared to the more present and visible physical ones, everything is stored in your body’s memory bank for processing. You can often more clearly see the lived experience of weight loss/gain, plastic surgery, pregnancy, or a boating accident than the day to day experiences of stress, joy, comfort, grief, etc (although with the right eyes these too are clearly visible), but everything is still documented in the body. You can even clearly see the physical manifestations of tastes and ideologies expressed through clothing or mannerisms. But emotional experiences and thoughts that are accumulated over time in one’s life manifest themselves into physical imprints in the body as well.
Yoga limbs three and four, Asanas (stretching and body work to develop a steady undisturbed posture as you navigate through life) and Pranayamas (breath control and life-force energy expansion), address the reality of your physical presence on Earth. Together, these two limbs help to prepare and strengthen your body and breath (and therefore your mind as well) so that you can come more literally and fully into your Self without both physical and emotional restrictions. In limbs three and four, you move from a healthy relationship with yourself in relationship to society and the external world, to a healthy relationship with your body and its vital energy systems where we live and exist each day.
These two limbs remind you that if you do not “work out” your experiences each day, and learn to manage your energy and posture effectively (physically, emotionally, and mentally), you may notice that you accumulate tensions and blockages of flexibility, and experience pain (on all levels) that makes concentration on other aspects of life and your spiritual path more difficult.
If you do not work out your different experiences of life’s emotional and physical imprints in your body, we may find yourself stuck in the traumas and dramas of lived experience instead of freely living in your own individual expression with enough energy to devote to your practice of attaining higher states of consciousness in order to achieve the ultimate goal of self-actualization/realization. This is one of the reasons why the third and forth limbs of Yoga are centered on the body and breath, and why Asanas and Pranayamas are an important part of your work and practice.
Together, and separately, the third and forth limbs of Yoga’s Eightfold Path connect your mind and body as they work out the dysregulations and traumas of everyday life and your past lived experiences, and they prepare you to get more steadily into yourself for your next practices of mastery of the sense (Pratyahara), concentration (Dharana), meditation (Dhyana), and connection with your highest expression (Samadhi) on this path.
Asanas help you to have fluidity and flexibility in your body-mind and to maintain the optimal functioning of your physical vessel; as do Pranayamas, which simultaneously open up your cells to more oxygen (and other forms of life-force energy) for optimal health while loosening tensions that restrict blood and hormone flow or the distribution of nutrients, essential molecules, and vital chemicals throughout your body into the essential organs and cells that need them.
The act of consciously moving and breathing, and the contemplation of the essential nature of their value to your existence, can take a Yoga practitioner into an elevated state of being that provides space for more higher capabilities of the mind since these two practices relax your muscles and nervous systems and make you more present and available for positive mental experiences as well increasing your ability to overcome physical and emotional challenges more quickly.
If one has developed certain triggers and neuroses from lived experience, for example, simply breathing and stretching have been proven to offer relief from these maladies since the practices invite their practitioners to come into the present moment where she/he can more fully live in the “now” and move forward toward the future instead of getting stuck in an automatic response from the past.
When you perform Asanas and Pranayamas you are, therefore, more available for learning, growth and positive expansion into healthier future and present states of being.
Asanasas and Pranayamas help you to move more fully into yourself and to start doing the necessary work to make your body and mind vessels for higher experiences and deeper connections with your divine expression and spirit.