My first yoga retreat
I never wanted it to stop. It was a wonderful feeling of joy, love compassion and connection to everyone who was there with me. This was despite the fact that I had only met these people just three days ago. But at that moment, it felt like I had known them all my life.
This was my first yoga retreat. Four days of total immersion in the practice, philosophy and life of hatha yoga. We practiced yoga twice a day. Spent several hours in sitting and walking meditation and learned about the philosophy of yoga through talks and discussions.
We helped prepare and ate the most delicious home-made vegetarian food. I was on an energy high. I had so much stamina. It was the best short break I had ever had.
So why did it effect me so profoundly?
Our subtle energy body
Yoga works on our bodies and minds at many levels, and in a way that traditional medicine fails. Infact, many of the alternative therapies and practices, that have become so popular, work on our mind and body in powerful ways.
You may not realise it, but your body has a network of unseen energy channels. They follow the pathways of our nervous system and provide a constant supply of subtle energy that keeps us alive.
This complex mesh of energy channels, or 'meridians' as the Chinese call them, focus around 7 energy centers or 'chakras' that are vertically aligned from our crown to our abdomen. Yoga, and many alternative therapies and practices, increase, balance and harmonise this energy network.
Lao Tsu, the revered Chinese sage and chi kung master, said, "When human beings are born, they are tender and soft. At death they are stiff and hard. All things, the grass as well as the trees, are tender and supple when alive". It's this hidden energy system that keeps us alive, vibrant and healthy.
Shiatsu, acupressure and acupuncture
The study of our energy bodies can be seen in shiatsu, acupressure and acupuncture. These are just three of the many practices that originate from the East.
Shiatsu is a system of full body massage taken lying down on a futon. But it's more than just massage. Many part of your body are pressed and massaged where the subtle energy lines meet. The effect is both invigorating and relaxing at the same time. My first massage was so good I fell asleep.
Acupuncture is a curative system that is accepted by the western medical establishment because it works. Needles are inserted so they connect with the energy channels in your body. By placing these needles at the right points your energy and health is both rebalanced and restored.
The ancient art of yoga
Yoga, stretching and pilates is about exercising your muscles and ligaments, but it's more than this. The gentle stretching of muscles releases trapped energy and energises the muscles and ligaments the pose is working on.
Yoga involves stretching into a pose and holding the position while breathing in or out deeply and completely. There is a dynamic to this apparent stillness. You may be holding the position, but your deep breathing is moving energy and refreshes the parts of your body other exercise cannot reach.
So, the slow and steady movements free trapped energy, energise muscles and ligaments and refresh your whole body. At the same time you are developing strength and stamina while holding these poses.
Mind and body health
Traditional medicine and therapies work with symptoms, known illnesses and diseases. Holistic and alternative practices and therapies view illness as a warning that your system is out of balance. Many of these practices work on you at different levels, especially your subtle energy body.
It's all about re-balancing your mind and body so that it works properly once again. It's a 'whole'-istic view rather than a piecemeal view.
Maybe that's why modern medicine seems unable to cure some illnesses and health problems.
We have so much to learn.
Terry Dunn writes regular articles on how to use alternative therapies to improve your health. From aromatherapy to yoga, discover what it's like, how it works and how you can benefit. To read more articles, visit his website, http://www.holistichealthtalk.com