Physical Practice to Cultivate Peace

Physical Practice to Cultivate Peace

Yoga is a fundamental practice in my life, a ritual that has taught and given me many things. 

What I love about yoga is the way it can teach the body to cultivate peace. Not only did this knowledge strengthen my relationship with my body, but also gave me the tools to calm myself down when anxieties creep in… Yoga helps me get out of my head, recognize thought patterns, and be more present.

In the midst of a very very gray Canadian winter, I found myself lost in my head, pacing around my apartment all frantic, completely neglecting the time and practice I invested in relieving this type of stress. Being in my mid twenties, balancing relationships, finances, education, physical and mental health while searching for a “soul purpose” is overwhelming. For me, the unknown of it all gives me immense anxiety.  

I decided to put on a guided meditation and step onto my mat to chill out. It may sound corny but my yoga mat is my safe space, it's where I feel my most authentic and connected. It’s one thing I can do for myself to strengthen my body, ignite my curiosity, and exercise my focus. During meditation, two key processes happen within us.

The first thing that happens is proprioception. Proprioception is the brain's way of knowing where the body is in space. There is a part of the brain that governs this, it's called the insular cortex. When I think of proprioception, I imagine my being coming home to my body. The second thing that happens is called interoception. Interoception is the idea of feeling the internal body - so things like tightening of the jaw or tension in the back of the neck. 

We use the body in a very particular way to light up the insular cortex. Exercising this part of our brain enables us to slow down. It allows us to let go of ruminative thinking, which is the process of thinking about the same (often negative) cycle of thoughts almost obsessively. Meditation brings us into the reality of the flow of things as they truly are, or rather, it brings us back to the moment where we can feel safe enough to be present. 

Breathwork paired with physical practice is how I find balance and cultivate peace. 

Yoga asana is one of my regular rituals that brings me harmony, alongside my skincare practice, pilates classes, spending time with family, and recharging alone time. As we all know Yoga is an ancient practice with roots in many philosophies and religions. One that resonates with me is Taoism, which believes that a person who lives in harmony with the universe will not have to fight the universe’s natural flow, and thus cultivates ultimate, unhinged peace.

The teachings of yin and yang come from Taoism, a religion born in China. The terms yin and yang seek to describe how energy manifests. Yang (the light side with dark dot) is thought to cultivate yin (the dark side with light dot) and yin is thought to protect yang. Yin is feminine, with a negative electric charge. Yin is associated with the moon and Yang is associated with the sun. Yang is masculine, with a positive electric charge. The yang initiates an action, and the yin receives it, and completes it. An example can be a baseball pitch. The pitch would be considered yang, and the catch would be considered yin. Taoism teaches that there is one power in the universe, the Tao or Dao, which is the ultimate force. Unlike other religions that categorize bad with bad and good with good, Taoism teaches that we need to learn from both the good and bad - that everything contains the seed of its opposite. 

I think back to this often. 

For me, harmony is found in the consistency of my practice. My skin care routine, breathwork, and yoga practices are tools I use to ground myself to cultivate peace. 

As I look forward, I strive to extend self-compassion when I ‘lose my way’ because life can be incredibly confusing, unknowable, and frustrating, but I feel incredibly blessed to be here experiencing it. When I do stray, I know my practices are there for me, waiting - whether it’s yoga, skincare, breathwork, family time - I have tools to bring me back to my present, harmonious self.

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