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Transforming Fear to Joy

As yogis and yoginis, we are often told to “live in our spine” whether in asana and meditation or off the mat in everyday living.  But what does it mean to live in our spine? Simply put, yoga intends us to centre our awareness on the spine and to respond to life’s events from our higher or divine Self rather than from the limits and inhibitions of our personality/ego.  

To remain more in the Self means to live more in the spine, and at the point between the eyebrows.  Swami Kriyananda

Kriyananda’s quote is the antithesis of how most of us begin our yoga experience.  Typically, when we first come to yoga we are focused on improving some aspect of our physical self — tight hamstrings, lower back pain, rounded and inflexible shoulders, etc.  And indeed, these ailments are very likely to be improved through a regular thoughtful yoga practice.

However, yoga is not intended to make us feel better, particularly by focusing only on our five external senses — sight, sound, smell, touch and taste.  As a spiritual practice with a physical component, yoga is intended to awaken us to our true Self — the source of our truth and wisdom. We undertake this by undoing and releasing whatever inhibits us from returning to our true nature. By the way, our true nature is not located outside ourselves in the external world. Instead, we must travel inward, and we do so, by living and breathing in the spine.  

Certainly, we need our five senses to function in the physical world, however, when we only access the five physical senses, we limit our understanding and experience of life to our outward perception of the world.  Thus, our awareness and energy remains directed outward into the world rather than inward and upward to the inner experience of our intuition located at the point between the eyebrows.  By maintaining our awareness and breath in the spine, we develop the capacity to move our life-force energy up the spine into what is familiarly known as our third eye, that is, our intuitive sixth sense — the voice of our truth and wisdom.  

Staying focused only on our five external senses does not provide us with the whole truth necessary for healing, growth and awakening, which is why yoga is referred to as an integral practice.  Yoga integrates information and knowledge gained from our five senses with intuition, thereby providing a holistic view of our experiences. More concretely, the primary physical benefits of a yoga practice are the release of blockages and tension.  When tension is released from the body so follows the breath and the mind. This act of surrendering tension allows the inner silence of a quieted mind to express its intuitive wisdom, which unveils, layer by layer, the root cause of our suffering.

Hence why, for yogis, it all starts with living and breathing in the spine.  In the following sequence of poses and complementary yoga actions, notice how your awareness is kept close to the spine.  If you find the yoga actions below too complex, do the poses while just holding your awareness on your spine and awaken your inner knowing.

Action:  Take a normal inhalation. At the end of the exhalation, scoop the lower abdominals (just below the navel) inward and up the face of the s