In business, it's often said that three things matter most for success — location, location, and location. Holistic health has a similar triune axiom — prevention, prevention, and more prevention. Within holistic health, the system of yoga can be a key factor in creating success in life, especially now. At no time is the philosophy for prevention and maintenance more important than now amid the COVID-19 health crisis. The “Corona Pandemic”, coupled with the stress of race and economic tensions across the United States, has created a season of change that many are not prepared to weather. Similar to the underpinnings of business, and socio-economic structure, it is the systems of health that increase efficacy and efficiency to help the human body thrive and grow. Furthermore, it is a personal system of wellness that provides mental stability, clean blood, a strong body, a healthy appetite, a nutritious organic food diet, and a life that has reduced suffering ( suffering which in itself stems from poor self-habits). After all, holistic health is true wealth — it fosters personal focus, an unfettered mind, and tenacity, which give way to economic abundance. With yoga, we may become healthy, and to be healthy is to be wealthy, wise, and ready.
In my daily life, I use yoga to shape my personal health practice. I believe it makes my faith stronger, my mind healthier and my body sustainable to provide a lifetime of joy and abundance for both myself and my family. For example, after my daily morning session, I am very calm and clear of mind. I am able to apply a deep readiness for work. I feel deeply rooted and who I am and this helps separate me from drama, politics, and attention seekers in the workplace. Yet, within yoga is spiritual expansion, which provides growth for empathy and vulnerability. I believe yoga can shape one’s being, and so I’d like to share a few insights into how yoga can help cultivate a dynamic, healthy and successful human being. A person who is able to be of sound mind, and calm in a crisis; A person able to perform well and be well in both supportive, as well as, combative environments – this is how a person who does yoga becomes a yogi.
Within yoga practice, the diaphragm takes up a particular role. It is said that the most important muscle in the human body is the diaphragm because the diaphragm supports breath in and out of the body, and that without the breath, the brain ceases to think and the heart ceases to beat. So, though this organ seems minuscule or trivial, yoga encourages us to shed light on the “smaller,” more subtle aspects of life and being, and not just our big “lottery moments” of celebration and recognition. After all, it is the small muscles that support the larger muscles in the body; our feet are 1/100 of the size of our body, and yet they support our entire standing structure! This concept of ‘small supporting large’ is my first insight, “there are no small snakes.”
An old African saying states, “there are no small snakes,” because the small, baby snake carries the same poison and is capable of killing you equally, as the full-grown, adult snake. In a similar manner, the small warning given off in the body should be heeded with equal importance as the large one. A small heart attack can be just as deadly as a “big” one, and so, we must pay attention to these minuscule warning signs. We may do this through the practice of asana (postures) in yoga, which builds a keen awareness of the body, and in the mind. To say it more succinctly, asana practice connects ( or yolks) mind/body in a conscious manner. We know our minds and bodies are “self” contained, which is how we appear to be separate from the person standing next to us. Yet, if we practice postures ardently, we become aware of something more. Lastly, asana practice may help in linking our personal mind-body, as well as linking us to others. We may become successful in postures when we allow the practice to come through us without judgment. Asana practice spills over from the mat into our daily “waking” life through our daily actions, Thus, asana practice is how we learn to be unique and capable of doing our best in any given moment. And so this asana, this posture practice, is also “positioning practice”, one that we may transfer to the marketplace, the workplace, or the world. We become as good as we are willing to open up to being good. On the mat, we train our “good” to become great. Couple this greatness practice with meditation, and we now have the ability to hear the “small” voices that cry out in our minds as thoughts, and our bodies as sensations. When we become aware of these ‘small snakes’ through asana, we become our greatest selves.
My second insight is patience. True patience is a virtue, yet, patience is also a “practice.” Meditation is “sitting inside of patience” as if it were a bubble. Meditation comes to you….one day…someday. If you were to chase meditation as a goal, a “thing to grab and possess”, or even to have it possess you, it would forever evade you. Patience is like traveling to a destination – we do it every day of our lives. We traverse time and go from here to there. Imagine, for example, when we board a bus. If we stand at the front door of the bus, in eager anticipation of reaching our destination, it does not help the bus arrive earlier or safer. Conversely, acting excited or impatient may distract the driver, the other passengers, and get you in a whole heap of trouble! Certainly, this anticipation makes the trip in your mind, last longer than it may actually be. Instead, we sit back, relax, read, eat, have a conversation with a friend, perhaps a fellow passenger, all while remaining calm and in a state of readiness to exit the bus. Like in our bus example, the key to patience is acceptance of the moments that are happening, and the active effort against imposing personal desire, fantasy and wishes onto the moment at hand. The trick is to use our time “waiting in patience” wisely, as we would on the bus. And in turn, when this patience is practiced and when we cultivate healthy habits of thinking and doing, we become a living meditation. On our bus ride of life, we can rest, sleep, or study the object of our desire so that we arrive at our destination -- fully prepared for the next moment along our way. In closing, meditation is preparation to accept each moment of life as it unfolds. It is how we learn that even though we are not driving the bus, we can greatly influence the ride in every imaginable way!
The ability to influence the ride without being the driver, through non-doing, brings us to the last of my personal insights — to be mindful. Not in the “busy-minded” sense of a mind full of worry, responsibility, or goals. But mindful in terms of “paying attention on purpose” aka meta-cognition, a nod to the “no small snakes” axiom. Mindfulness extends beyond the tenets of non-striving, patience, trust, child-like curiosity, acceptance, non-judgment, and letting go. It extends to a deep diagnostic awareness of breath in your body (remember the importance of the diaphragm), the thought in your own mind. Mindfulness as a practice is an ever inward gaze with wonder at the true Godlike make-up of the human experience. We are breathing, mobile, and conscious beings — a new emotion, a new “Guest in the house” of our being arrives every moment of every day. Can we not experience each one fully, openly, and allow them a righteous exit as we do upon their arrival? The practice of mindfulness is not to produce neurotic behavior or incessant thoughts, nor is it to become so aware of thoughts that it feels like multiple personalities are in conversation in your head. Instead, mindfulness practice invites us more deeply into our own personal experience of life, to be aware, and to see what we are in the grand scheme. Now when we are on the bus ride, we experience the chill of the air-conditioned bus, we smell the intersection of the lavatory disinfectant spilling out from the rear and the air freshener flowing from the driver’s area. We hear the woman arguing on the mobile phone with her spouse equally with the gentle sounds of a child lightly snoring behind us. We, with joy or aloofness, watch the scenery roll by in the window. A landscape of dust or machinery. We ignore or satisfy the feelings of hunger or thirst. We might snuggle deeper into the chair as it were a giant, warm hug from a loved one, and if we make the conscious choice to appreciate the moment as “experiencing” life, as opposed to “judging the moment” — then we are truly mindful and have achieved equanimity.
So it is with the practices of mindfulness, yoga asana, and meditation that I provide insight into a successful life. Success is self-defined. Success is experienced; not appraised. When we use holistic life development (yoga) as a practice, our success axiom of location, location, location takes on new meaning. Location, aka “success”, is literally a place we are standing at any given moment! We cannot prevent a robbery, or inclimate weather any more than we can prevent meeting the love of our life, or a room full of people applauding our presentation. Yet no matter your definition, as people, success is experienced once we cultivate the awareness of gratitude and grace for living. This is the magic of practicing yoga, mindfulness, and asana, as they encompass the activities that produce outcomes for inner change. The greatest joy in the world is discovering that your “place” in life is always filled with potential, possibility, and the opportunity for transformation. Joy and success are always with us, and through these three insights of holistic health, we are able to discover them for the bettering of ourselves and the world.