Let’s be real. When most of us first heard about yoga, the initial image that we were exposed to was either a highly experienced yogi who was able to twist themselves up in the most intricate pose or a person calmly sitting in a seemingly painful lotus position with two fingers creating an “O” and the rest pointing up/downwards. What isn’t apparent in these pictures is how the practice of yogic exercises would release built up negative emotions stored in organs and muscles. Upon further study and personal practice, I was able to learn more about what yoga really is and why I experienced that.
This ancient practice of combining movement into postures with full wholesome breaths are evidenced in two cultures that I am aware of. The first being on the walls in ancient Kemetic (Egypt) temples. “Yoga”, then was only known as Smai Tawi (union of the two lands aka the “higher” mind & spirit and “lower” physical self). A quick online search will reveal many modern day practitioners and teachers of Smai Tawi. In Indian yoga there are many forms and disciplines to choose from. With that being said it is clear that between both there are various practices available with different levels of ease. The goal with all disciplines are similar in that it is to ensure physical and mental balance and good health. Typically this goes beyond just doing the exercise, but rather it becomes an entire lifestyle. For purposes of this article, I will be speaking on the exercise.
My personal experience attending yoga classes has mainly been with the westernized version of Indian yoga (I haven’t tried Kemetic yet, but would love to!). These classes allowed it’s students to use different props to help with our practice depending on the style and flow of postures. This would include blocks, bolster (long, very thick rectangular pillow), strap, eye pillows, blankets, etc.
My very first class experience was doing Vinyasa yoga. “Vinyasa” is an Indian Sanskrit word meaning “to place in a special way”.
When I tell you I learned a lot that day, I learned a lot that day. Not only about new postures but also about myself.
I don’t fully remember the name of this “placement” that allowed my healing release to take effect, but it required putting two yoga blocks on the edge of the top of our mats to hold up the bolster pillow on a slight angle making what looked like a ramp. We had to make sure the side of our hip was right up against the bottom of that pillow. Legs curled putting us in a semi fetal position. Then we were to twist and lean right up against the bolster doing deep slow consistent belly breaths. What had happened next shortly after being in that position was so unexpected.
I felt like I wanted to cry.
As I stayed in that pose continuing my deep breathing, I found myself fighting tears. I quickly analyzed in my mind what I was going through and I immediately understood that I was probably giving a number of internal organs a little massage. Then it dawned on me. My kidneys.
Right after that we were instructed to go into svarasvana (lay on back and relax) pose for a minute. Then we proceeded to sit up and prepare for the AUM chant. One deep belly breath, in through the nose, belly expands, out through the mouth, belly contracts. Then another big deep belly breath and then chant one long AAAAAAUUUUUUUUMMMMMMMMM chant (said to be the vibrational sound of the Universe).
I couldn’t hold those tears in anymore as they came pouring out.
It turns out that for someone who has experienced ESRD (End Stage Renal Disease) in a very stressful emotional way, I had begun to release some negative built up emotional energy that was stored in the kidneys. This was a personal verification of something I studied in Traditional Chinese Medicine. There is a theory of how our bodies can hold onto various emotions meaning that when we experience happiness, sadness, anger, fear and more our bodies physically react and can change on a molecular level resulting in an actual physical manifestation
of such memory. For example, the lungs are the center of grief, the kidneys the center of fear, etc.
In a thesis I did for college on childhood trauma and it’s affects on the adult mind, I learned of the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis where if there is a lot of fear based trauma in childhood resulting in a constant firing of stress chemicals (cortisol) from the adrenal gland it can significantly result in a chemical change in the brain in response to everyday stress. Results vary, but most of the time it is expressed in the lack of empathy or emotional attachment issues. This is the similar in the case of constant firing of too much cortisol, building up in your body causing many diseases. The point is your body has it’s way of holding onto the trauma if it is not released/healed properly.
Looking back, my expectations prior to participating in my first real yoga class with an instructor and other yogis was to enjoy some good stretching and try a little challenging pose here and there. Although I experienced my unexpected emotional healing due to the internal kidney massage yoga “placement”, I was more than happy to continue attending future classes. I realized that practicing yoga had the potential to help me heal in more ways than one.
With each class, I felt better and better to the point where I would smile with such happiness and gratitude; true spiritual moments and overall balancing. I continue to utilize yoga exercise practice as a way to help strengthen my muscles through balance and controlled movements. Yoga also helps me to be aware of my breathing. Am I shallow breathing or getting as much oxygen to all of my cells as possible? Breath is life!
It is also a great exercise to relieve daily pain if you suffer from lupus (as I have), fibromyalgia or any other associated condition. Just be sure to ask your physician if it is safe for you to partake of this or any new exercise regimen you do. In most yoga classes I’ve been to the instructor allows you to do the best you can within your limit. Nothing is forced.
A major lesson I have learned that day and throughout my practice is that sometimes we don’t realize how much healing we need until we try something new and experience the positive benefits of our health.