For some time I’ve had a hernia with it periodically ‘playing up’. Most recently, I was diligently doing the Yogic technique of Kapalabathi which although exhilarating was especially non-beneficial for my periodic hernia, yet strong activities such as deadlifts are not a problem, but a bit of strong breathing is. Perplexed, I took an hour out to sit with myself and ask: “What can I do to heal the manifestation of the hernia?”
Here’s the reply I offered myself.
At this moment it’s not a question of healing the hernia as it serves and has served a purpose to remind myself to enjoy the moment, the process of an action rather than focussing on the outcome, to explore the process with my whole whole being, to spread out in the process, to discover that in this moment I’m complete.
This idea of ‘developing oneself’, of getting better is so entrenched in our being and in our culture, but it takes the joy out of life. It is, after all, only a matter of changing the perspective, not necessarily what we are doing. Systems and fixed methods provide the opportunity to measure ourselves. Some methods of meditation within and outside of the Yogic tradition are presented in a step-by-step progressive logical manner. In itself these approaches are not bad, they can be very helpful, however in times where the mindset of most of us is based on a future outcome, the linear approach can be problematic as it reignites the cultural flame to get somewhere faster. If the steps are accompanied with rules and right/wrong, it further perpetuates this collective mindset.
In weightlifting I am striking a relatively good balance. The reason is probably because there’s less attachment, that is, I care less about progression, therefore am more open to enjoying the process and listening to the messages of the body. I have less expectations of myself in the gym, however, can have a lot of expectations of when practising Yoga and in Yogic mediation. Therefore, it is actually a matter of transferring the mindset that I have in the gym into the spiritual explorations. If I’m listening to my body, the messages of what is beneficial and what is too much are quite clear.
Discomfort in any manner, other than heat, in Pranayama is a sign I’ve gone too far. I can enjoy the techniques provided if these are incorporated to suit me - after all, the author/teacher is sharing what worked for them! Although these techniques are excellent we are all individuals with a slightly different body and needs, so on a physiological level, the order of the exercises are likely to be different for each person. I will continue to explore techniques in a less literal manner without needing to ‘obey’ instructions, listening and heeding the signals of the body which has my best interests at heart!
Christoph Seiland is a qualified medical doctor, yoga teacher, and anatomy and biomechanics teacher trainer.