A beautiful drawing from BuddhaDoodles to start this article off with:

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Our mind creates our world.

But so fortified is the mind that it is easier to change the body than the mind.

Thus the efficacy of long-term, committed yoga practice – from the body to the mind and soul. It cleans the mind of the marinade we create and allows us to live free. I truly believe in that.

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When I was too ill to do much, my partner prescribed meditation.  He carried me, kicking and screaming literally, to a small meditation space in Battersea, London. It was alien to me, and I fought against it, but his will was stronger than mine, and in the end, I sat there in mutinous silence, until one day, I accepted the light.

And once the light broke through the darkness that temporarily swamped me, I began to get better.  My body seemed to hurt less, and I knew then that I was on the path to recovery.  Mindful practices such as meditation and yoga have been proved scientifically to change the grey matter of the brain, as M. Catherine Bushnell, PhD, scientific director, Division of Intramural Research, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, NIH, recently presented at a conference. You can read the article here.

Here’s the thing about pain and life:

  1.  Brain breeds pain.  And that includes inner pain from our past. I have been practicing yoga for 30 years, and have taught it for over 20 years. I can see the pain in people from their bodies – I knew someone with cold lumps in his body, from a body that is crying out for love (not sex), and I know people whose postures are carved by their emotional selves.
  2. And conversely, physical pain and harm can be detached from one another in a person that is not connected. If you are in pain, you are not necessarily hurt. You can suffer pain, or manifest symptoms of illness, when there is no physiological damage.
  3. The brain often thinks the body is in danger when it is not. There are many other more commonplace instances where the brain does not know what is going on in the body and causes pain in an area that is clearly not under threat. This is the cause of anxiety, nervousness, jumpiness, and “afraid-ness”.  The source goes deeper than the actual situation. Grounding postures, committed practice and strengthening the core are the ways to work on this holistically, because it has potential to destroy relationships and lives.

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These ladies are my yoga friends in Phuket, my source of constancy and comfort on the island. We are in our thirties, forties and fifties, with our many challenges.  One of the ladies had a breast removed because of cancer and is often in pain, but she is on her mat with a big smile on her face and plenty of humour, lighting our practice each day, inspiring us. Their commitment to the path is nothing short of a miracle, and in our own ways, through yoga, we have found a degree of happiness and meaning from the mat. A long, committed practice in mindfulness have the power to change lives – it has, for sure, mine ❤