Neither you nor I can remain in a yoga session or meditation session without breath and patience, but when we attend to our guru – the breath – we are renewed, inspired, and transformed.
When led by a good yoga teacher, we’ll find words of encouragement and encounter something that we will not hear in other places. This “something” is embedded deep in yoga’s reforming curriculum where we find asana a positive but not necessarily easy pursuit.
Yoga’s teaching of ethics contains many ingredients. One not often talked of, but present like the yeast in bread – a small ingredient that raises the dough – is love. Love is the dynamic force of yoga’s recipe for change, the ingredient which creates healing for mind, body, and spirit. One key aspect of this ingredient proclaims to us that we are worthy of self-care while simultaneously teaching us what it is and how to apply it in our lives.
In savasana, yogis dip into a deep pool of love as they sink into the mat and their full body weight rests heavy and still. That’s when we remind ourselves to replace thoughts of self-recrimination and judgment with thoughts of praise and even love for ourselves and others. Recently, as the class was released into a state of savasana, the teacher said, “Let love fall upon your spine.”
Think about the powerful impact of this idea; the kind of thing yogis regularly hear during the marvelous privilege of practicing yoga, during which we absorb yoga’s ministry of spirit and its medicine for body and mind. Love’s reach and love’s world-changing impact are profound. A yoga teacher once told me, “I remember lying in savasana one time and saying to myself that I could die for everyone in this room right now and I’d be okay with it.” Everyone, not just some of the people. That’s love, and that’s the kind of sacrifice love can and does engender.
To let love fall upon us is a central tenant in the yoga curriculum, the unvarnished core of which is the art of pure care for the mind, body, and spirit. And how does this happen? It happens naturally when we are opened by yoga; it can’t be prescribed like medication because releasing into the trust of an ongoing evolution is individual and unique.
We were born of love, and love seeks to sustain all life. It is natural to us, and when we realize that we are both objects and subjects of this love, everything changes, and we learn to trust a higher and deeper love, a love that also resides within us.
When by necessity or choice your soulful urge leads you to yoga, your moving meditation, and breath will be part of a loving integration of body, mind, and spirit. Like yeast in bread, a small but necessary ingredient, love will raise the yogi into becoming a new being. And what can this code of love do? It can keep your spine supple and healthy, and it can connect you to the power of yoga for transformation. It’s the power of love. I can say that yoga love fixed my back, but that was just the start.
Yes, there are many forms of caring and medicine for us. Chiropractic medicine works on the spine with hands-on manipulations called adjustments. There is a time and place for this medical practice, I think, but yoga adjustments are your self-generated miracle that happens when we release and let love fall upon us. Letting love fall upon our spine becomes a self- generating renewal.
In an Institute of Medicine survey, “Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education, and Research,” 27 percent of all respondents said they suffered specifically from lower back pain. That’s nearly 90 million Americans directly identifying lower back issues. Yoga works on back pain, but I’ve found it’s only the beginning of what happens when the upright human being meets love in this ancient transformational science.
From the first hint of life, our spine, which is a combination of both hard and soft tissue and bone, is constantly changing. At first, the human spine looks no different than any many animals, and in utero, the human spine is shaped as one simple curve which is called the primary curve. When we make our way through birth trauma, our cervical spine begins its evolutionary corrective which allows us to stand upright, and this shape-shifting of the spine continues throughout our lives – although in small degrees.
After several months and into our early years, we develop a second curve in the thoracic spine trailing down to the lumbar spine. This secondary spinal curve serves us well until we turn to later years and begin to stoop (if we don’t keep bending backward and maintain good posture). In some cases, then, the spine begins to look more and more like it was when we were infants as the older adult stoops forward.
But the spine is designed to bend and flex; it’s designed to extend and handle compression, designed to rotate, and support, it’s designed to adjust and keep adjusting through life. Yoga’s curriculum teaches us to bend and flex the spine, in concert with breath intake and exhale while moving deliberately to build a supple and strong spine.
Yoga is a martial art of the soul; when doing it we feel alive and challenged. When alive and challenged, we exert effort to do the pose, and over time we attempt to do better while being more at ease. We aim to move into better alignment, better breath management, and better love for our spine and our life. Yogis know love is a powerful medicine, and it’s the core of yoga spirituality. In yoga we receive the best – love – and to be our best we take it in and then pass it on.
Yoga and love are potent forces that will lead you down the road of change where you enter the realm of the marvelous. There, your most intimate guru (your breath) will bring renewal; your spine will adjust millimeter by millimeter, and you will find healing. When it comes to self-care, think for a moment not about food, sleep, intimacy, or community; think now about the powerful effect of letting love fall upon your spine, your heart, and your life.
This is something worth hearing, it’s also worth remembering. It gets quickly to the heart of practice; for yoga goes beyond achieving to receiving; in yoga, we let something therapeutic happen. This ‘something happening’ is not easily described but yogis know what it is because they experience it, and they know it’s more precious than gold; and therefore, something to prize and prioritize.
Never mind that nobody can tell you exactly how to do this, because it is your soulful urge, and in the symphony of asana if you listen close, you will hear it in these words, “Let love fall upon you.”