One of the great benefits of yoga, in addition to increased strength and flexibility, is that it promotes the peaceful state necessary for us to go “inward” and establish a “mind-body-spirit” connection, nourishing our soul. Other forms of physical exercise require a great deal of external focus, with our mind and body ”engaged” with equipment and people around us.
My Ashtanga Yoga practice, based on the “Eightfold Path of Yoga” created by Sage Patanjali of India (around 100 BC), allows me to “be in the moment”, quieting my mind to focus on “being where I am.” The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali describe a connection to our soul that comes only through “silence”, which produces the sense of “being really alive”. Only when we successfully block out the distractions and sensual stimulations of life, can we achieve happiness in the moment, called “Santosha” or “Contentment”, one of the five Inner Disciplines (Niyama) in the Yoga Sutras.
Happiness in the moment? Why would any of us dedicate ourselves to something that values silence and slow movements of the body? Magazines and commercials tell us to get out of the house, be more physically active, or work up a great sweat in order for something to be a worthwhile exercise or activity. Most people I know, almost without exception, live their lives according to these maxims. Clearly, most of us want action, distraction, and fun places involved in our workouts and activities.
But to “be in the moment”, practicing this process of silence, is also a goal of “meditation”. Jon Kabat- Zinn, founder and former director of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University Of Massachusetts Medical School, developed “mindfulness meditation” to help people reduce the suffering coming from chronic pain and stress in their lives. This included a method of “moment-to-moment” awareness that allowed for increased “coping skills”. You could say that “happiness in the moment” is the best remedy for dealing with pain and stress.
The legendary 93-year old yoga teacher and authority of the Yoga Sutras, B.K.S. Iyengar, made the following quote:
[pullquote color="pink" align="left"] “Health is a state of complete harmony of the body, mind and spirit. When one is free from physical disabilities and mental distractions, the gates of the soul open.” [/pullquote]
It is the “harmony of the body”, while connecting with the mind and spirit, that Dr. Kabat-Zinn writes about in his best-selling book “Wherever You Go, There You Are”.
The benefits that all of us can achieve when we “quiet the mind” are central to both meditation and the feeling of contentment:
How cool is that? Our modern society does a great job of promoting life’s “special moments”, but requires most of us to “purchase” these moments, as luxuries. The “movements of the body” in yoga connect us to the “moments in the mind” where we can “nourish our soul”. Every day, at any moment, and it doesn’t require a Visa card.
My yoga practice allows me to achieve serenity and peace, while working through challenging poses, or asanas, exercising muscles and giving me a sense of accomplishment. This “physical completeness” compliments the contentment that my mind feels, what many people would describe as a “special moment”.
The importance of breath, or “Pranayama”, the control of breathing, is critical in quieting the mind, allowing movements to flow like a river as we connect to our spirit. In fact, the word “spirit” is from the Latin word “spiritus”, which mean “breath”.
[pullquote color="pink" align="right"]“From the perspective of meditation, every state is a special state, every moment a special moment.”[/pullquote]
Over the past 10 years, I have developed a routine to connect mind, body and spirit and become present in the moment:
Five Simple and Sacred Steps To “Being In The Moment”
1. Stand, sit or lie down while keeping your spine straight. Relax. There should be no bright lights or noisy sounds around you. The best times are early morning, early evening or nighttime.
2. Close your eyes slowly. Don’t force them closed. It should be a natural feeling that you would feel during a slight, warm breeze. This starts the process of blocking out distractions.
3. Breathe in slowly through your nose, filling the lungs fully. Then slowly exhale, pushing the air out with your diaphragm, which engages and gently warms your core muscles. Exhale through the nose, allowing a vibrating sound to come out sounding out “one” within your mind. Inhale again deeply, and then slowly exhale through your nose while sounding “two”. Finally, inhale slowly a third time, and exhaling with a vibrating sound “three”. These are three sacred breaths, representing the connection of Mind, Body and Spirit. There are times when I the sacred breaths until I reach the count of ten, especially on days when I have had high levels of stress.
4. Place your hand over your heart, feel it beating, and begin the process of being present within, breathing gently and maintaining the silence necessary to connect with the soul.
[pullquote color="pink" align="left"]“When you inhale, you are taking the strength from God. When you exhale, it represents the service you are giving to the world.”[/pullquote]
5. Slowly begin saying, quietly within your mind without moving your lips, positive affirmations reflecting the beauty of your essence. “I am kind”; “I am beautiful”; “I am strong”; “I am mother”. The “I am” should be gently stated, slowly, very slowly while inhaling; the third word of affirmation, is also gently stated within the mind as you exhale. This projects your positive thoughts out into the universe, on the wind of your breath. Continue to breathe slowly.
The entire process can take as little as a few minutes or can last 20 minutes or more depending on how deeply connected I feel. I finish by thinking of the following words of Iyengar, which speak to importance of breathing in achieving “contentment in the moment” and connecting with our soul:
Namaste, Jennifer Miller
About the Author — Jennifer Miller, 49, is a dedicated mother of four, experienced Ashtanga yoga practitioner, Certified Yoga Alliance Teacher, Intuitive Life Coach, Spiritual Wellness Coach, Certified Angel Therapy Practitioner (ATP), Trained Reiki Healer, Kenneth Cooper Certified Personal Trainer, and writer.
She studied Ashtanga Yoga with Bhavani Maki in Hanalei, Kauai in 2004-2005, completing a 200-hour teacher training program and experienced the spiritual beauty of the Patanjali Yoga Sutras and Philosophy. Returning to California in 2007, she has continued her Third Series Advanced practice with Tim Miller at the Ashtanga Yoga Center in Encinitas.
At the age of 18, Jennifer had a near-death-experience from complications of Endometriosis. She has followed a path of mind-body-spirit connection ever since. After almost losing her oldest son to substance abuse addictions, Jennifer learned the power of “Heart-Based Healing” and Spirituality in first acknowledging, and then overcoming feelings of denial and attachment in life. She now teaches yoga to young women in recovery, sharing the gift that is the “Journey of Life”.
She currently writes for and publishes “YogaGoddess.us”, where she seeks to help women “Transform Mind, Body and Spirit Through Their Essential Soul’s Wisdom”. Having experienced and overcome many of life’s challenges, she seeks to be love and bring healing and light to others.