The two areas of yoga and health are such a beautiful combination of topics to reflect on together. Separately, the two areas of life hold such meaning and promise for all of us. They represent some of the highest expressions of what it means to be a human being. And, together, these two areas of yoga and health are truly a special blend of light and joy.
As I sat down to reflect on these two very important areas of life, I thought it would be good idea to think about some of the basic ideas about both yoga and health.
First, I would like to examine the area of health.
What does it mean to be healthy?
Obviously, the answer to this question can be many things, depending on whom you are talking to.
For many people, the definition of being healthy simply means not getting sick too often or not having physical discomfort. Most people would consider themselves healthy if their bodies did not significantly interfere with their capacity to live and work in their day-to-day lives.
This particular definition of being healthy, while not bad, does nothing to focus on the potential higher capabilities of the human body and of human life.
Additionally, by defining being healthy as the simple absence of discomfort, disease and illness, there is the strong possibility that deeper and longer term imbalances in one's health could be overlooked or go undetected.
Examples of this phenomena are everywhere around us. Many people, seemingly "healthy" for much of their lives (that is, free from any noticeable disease or illness on the surface), suddenly contract some kind of terminal illness and are completely debilitated. The two most common kinds of disease that appear in this way are heart disease and cancer.
Can a person, who appears relatively "healthy" on the outside and then becomes gravely ill due to a heart condition or cancer really be called someone who is healthy?
Yoga practice is really the art of creating ultimate balance and harmony. Yoga practice is about maximizing our potential as human beings. Yoga practice is basically about becoming the very best we can possibly be on every level (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual).
So, as yoga practitioners, it is important for us to constantly re-define what it means to be a human being. It is important for us to look higher and higher. It is important for us to take the old and typical definitions of things such as health and create a new and higher definition.
So much of the process of living a life with yoga is that we are constantly making ourselves better. Through yoga practice, we become stronger, more flexible and more pure, not just in our bodies but in our minds and hearts as well.
Through yoga practice, we are all becoming much more sensitive and aware of our bodies, minds and hearts on a increasingly deeper and deeper way.
In this way, it is no longer sufficient for us to define being healthy as simply not getting sick or being physically uncomfortable. It is important for us to look for and create a level of health that not only does not get in the way of our lives, but actually supports us becoming the best that we can be.
Let us look to create a kind of healthiness that gives us tremendous amounts of physical, mental and spiritual energy. Let us create the kind of healthiness that keeps us super young in our energy and our state of mind. Let us create the kind of healthiness that significantly increased the functioning power of our minds (clarity, memory and insight) and our bodies (living an extra long life free from disease of all kinds with boundless, youthful energy).
To create this kind of healthy life will require us to take a greater amount of care and apply more awareness to ourselves and to the environments in which we live. We will need to be more sensitive to the consequences of both our inner states of mind and heart and our outer expressions and actions.
This is the real value of daily practice. When we commit to spending time each day to deep practice, we create an atmosphere and an energy of paying attention and being extra sensitive to ourselves and all that surrounds us. Gradually and steadily over time, this extra amount of care and awareness begins to spread more and more to all areas of moments of our lives.
Many people in this world suffer many ills and imbalances simply due to the fact that they do not pay attention to themselves and how their thoughts and actions affect them and those around them. Modern lifestyles with lots of stress and unhealthy habits only serve to make people even more insensitive to themselves and the world around them.
The beauty of yoga practice is that we begin to naturally reverse that trend. Slowly, over time, we become more sensitive and attuned to what we actually feel and experience, not only superficially, but also on a deeper and deeper level. As we become more sensitive and aware over time, we can and do act and think in ways that are more harmonious with the laws of nature and with the world around us.
Very naturally, we can begin to create a whole new definition of what it means to be healthy. We can begin to experience new levels of health and vitality that many people never even knew was possible. And, as we do so, we make it that much easier for those around us to do the same.
In this way, the new definition of health not only means greater health and well-being for us as individuals, but also as a larger community, a larger whole.
This means that we not only can heal and enhance our own bodies and lives, but we can also heal and enhance the overall health of the whole planet as well.
This, to me, is the essence of the interplay between yoga and health.