PILLAR 1 – BE HEALTHY by Jess Robertson
A healthy practice leads to healthy choices for the mind, body, and spirit.
Be(ing) Healthy is not just about creating a practice that makes our muscles strong and our joints limber, flexible, and healthy; though, that is of course a big part of it. A healthy yoga practice creates a solid foundation from which healthy decisions can sprout up and thrive.
OUR COMMUNITY’S APPROACH TO HEALTH
The etymology of the word “health” comes from the Old English word “haelon,” meaning “wholeness,” or “being whole.” For us, a healthy practice includes mindful breathing and makes us feel whole… or at the very least, a bit more whole than before practicing!
When we are whole, we can ask ourselves deeper questions, because we get quiet enough to hear the answers. It is often in this quiet state that our negative thoughts and life patterns show themselves, and thus we can start shifting toward more healthy patterns.
We are so inspired by Modo members across the world who have found their voice, strength, and purpose through this practice. We hear from people working through alcoholism, poor diet choices, addiction, smoking, anger management, body image hardships, or workaholism. We’ve heard from members who are processing trauma, relieving anxiety, finding the bravery to come out to family and friends, and working through feelings of hopelessness.
And, because the Series is designed for all levels, we’ve also heard stories from injured athletes who thought their injuries would hold them back from enjoying their passion forever.
THE MODO SERIES
The Modo Series Was Designed To Be Both A Workout AND A Meditation. Many people find Modo classes to be challenging, but not just because of tightness or lack of strength, as one might assume. The classes are a physical workout for sure, but the biggest challenge for many is in moving slowly and mindfully. Or harder yet, lying still at the beginning and end of class.
Every class is framed by Savasana, or “Corpse Pose.” Modo teachers prioritize Savasana, because it is a practice of mindful breathing where transformation is truly potentiated. Each class begins and ends with just lying still. Although Savasana is the root of our Be Peace pillar (more on that 5 blog posts from now), learning how to let go and be still is key to the Be Healthy pillar as well.
The Modo practice also involves repetition, which in Sanskrit (the language of most yoga texts) is called japa. Japa is observed in other Yoga practices by (for example) saying a mantra, or repeating breathing exercises every day.
In the Modo Practice, japa shows up in our sequence of poses. You’ll notice that every Modo class has a foundation, or “core set” of poses, that stays the same from class to class. We call this our Series Essentials.
Off-the-mat, our days are filled with the kind of repetition that we don’t get to choose; like, how we commute to work, or how our boss talks to us. Incorporating repetition – by choice – into our yoga practice, allows us to get better at feeling more alive and conscious in, what can feel like, repetitive mundane life.
The repetition in our days, lives, and thoughts are like trains – passing by quickly. The space between each train car is our awareness. When we repeat poses, the practice becomes like a meditation and our awareness increases. We are better able to see the space between the thoughts, and in that space we have a moment of mindfulness.
We are inspired by how the Buddha practiced Anapanasati, or breath awareness. Through this subtle (but important) incorporation of breath awareness, we can watch our thoughts as they arise, and choose to respond differently than habit would dictate.
We become more patient with our kids when they are putting on their shoes. They act-out less in turn.
We listen more closely to our partner, which allows us to be less reactive to their words.
We become more focused on a project or on our studies without being distracted.
We are able to label our triggers and emotions more skillfully, so that we are not engaging in a ping pong game of misunderstandings and reactivity.
We are calmer at work, or with family, or in any of our most challenging relationships.
For Modo teachers, offering a class that is structured to support positive life changes is as integral to teaching as water is to a growing plant.
PHILOSOPHY OF BE HEALTHY
The 6 main Philosophical Inspirations for the Be Healthy Pillar are:
Pratyahara (or, the withdrawal from sense dominance)
Asana (yoga postures)
Saucha (or, “cleanliness,” which I also like to think of as “self care”), and
Pratyahara is the practice of knowing when we are being unconsciously dominated by our senses. A simple example (smell): “I smell a cinnamon bun. I’m suddenly hungry and want to eat a cinnamon bun.” Are we actually hungry, or is it just the senses usurping our ability to say, “Oh, look at that, the smell of that cinnamon bun actually makes me think I’m hungry even though I just ate dinner.”
A more subtle example (sight) is seeing an ad that is selling jeans or perfume and thinking, “I’m not skinny enough.” With practice, we learn to recognize this unconscious thought, and instead choose to say something like, “Wow! I can’t believe I almost let that perfume ad make me question my own beauty.”
A healthy practice starts to get ahead of this sense dominance, so that we are choosing our own thoughts and actions at a more conscious level, and on a more regular basis.
Asana and pranayama (postures and breathwork), like Pratyahara, are part of the 8 limbs of yoga. They were designed to (among other things) cleanse the body in preparation for meditation. And, other than smiling, laughing, drinking water, and walking, we’re pretty sure there’s nothing healthier out there than practicing yoga postures with breath awareness (bias exposed!!).
Viveka is the practice of discernment. We practice yoga in order to discern whether we are acting, speaking, and thinking from a place of true choice or from a place of habit. Another translation for Viveka is “right understanding.” Are we interpreting reality through the lens of our habits, or through true understanding?
Discernment has a dramatic effect on our mental and physical well being. Here is a simple break down of the 8 limbs as well as Viveka.
And finally, Saucha is simply the practice of being clean. This is another teaching from the Yoga Sutra. All self care begins with flossing right? A healthy practice leads to taking better care of ourselves.
SUMMING IT ALL UP…
The Be Healthy pillar is meant to say that our physical flexibility doesn’t matter if we are taking everything personally without claiming responsibility for our thoughts, words, and actions.
The Be Healthy pillar reminds us that it is unimportant that we can do a handstand or wrap our foot around our heads if we don’t know how to be kind to ourselves. We practice yoga to make our whole lives and our whole selves healthier. And from this place of wholeness, together we can bring about positive change.