Yoga, I discovered, was a lot more than physical movements. It is a philosophy, a spiritual discipline that focuses on helping you know yourself better.
I was too busy. Even if you had the time, why would you bother? When I first met Amy, my new yoga instructor, she emanated a strong sense of serenity and trustworthiness as she walked into my apartment. First, we rearranged a few pieces of furniture and then we sat on the floor using a mat. I told Amy that I had trouble breathing, and that I was afraid to get on my own elevator, so I walked nine flights of stairs instead, and that I was really scared that I was going to die. Amy started telling me about pranayama breathing. She asked me to press one finger against the middle of my forehead and use my thumb to seal my right nostril. Breathe in, she said. Now breathe out through your left. Now do it with your left nostril.
Breathe in. Now breathe out through your right. She explained that the purpose of alternate-nostril breathing, as it’s known, is to balance the left and right sides of the brain, which helps you relax and get centered. She then showed me a few yoga postures.
As I said earlier, I’ve always liked to dig deeply into subjects that interest me, and the more I learned about yoga, the more pranayama breathing felt important for my healing. Prana is the universal life force. It’s what distinguishes the living from the dead. It can be found in good-quality foods, correct breathing, and positive thinking. Pranayama breathing just means controlling the universal life-force through your breath, which in time helps bring balance and harmony to the body, the mind, and the spirit, or at least that’s the goal.
Meditation helps to cultivate the feeling of being present. Presents means gifts, and for me presence was the most amazing gift I could have received.
Many people in the West think of yoga as physical—a form of exercise focused around asanas or postures. In fact, the entire purpose behind practicing asanas is to stretch and open up our bodies to prepare them for meditation. With Amy as my teacher, I began doing alternate-nostril breathing every morning right as the sun was coming up. It got easier with practice. Meditation helps to cultivate the feeling of being present. Presents means gifts, and for me presence was the most amazing gift I could have received.