By Carrie DeJesus

Body, mind, spirit and purpose – these are the driving forces behind The Community Well and the pillars on which we are building. But what does this mean exactly? And how can having a healthier body help us live our life’s purpose? As a yoga teacher and practitioner, I have some ideas about this.

You may be surprised to learn that the intention of yoga is one of spiritual development and that yoga is not, contrary to popular culture, about twisting our bodies into strange positions or touching our toes. Through training the mind and body, yoga allows us to observe ourselves. Observation builds awareness and allows us to recognize our thought patterns, habits and reactions. This awareness aids in cultivating higher consciousness and supports us on our path of spiritual development.

So, how does yoga do all this? First you should know, there are many different ways to practice yoga and that yoga can be accessible to everyone. More about that in a future post, but for now I’ll tell you that the most popular type of yoga in the West is “Raja Yoga”, also know as “Royal Yoga.” Raja Yoga refers to the eight-limbed path of yoga. These limbs cover lots of territory, from ethical treatment of others to enlightenment. One of these limbs is “asana,” the Sanskrit word for “postures” or “poses,” which is the physical practice of yoga.

In the beginning, there was only one asana and that was the posture one took when seated in meditation. As time went on, more and more asanas were created. Today, there seems to be an asana for anything that ails us!

But no matter how many ways we create to contort our bodies, the purpose of the postures remains the same – to steady our minds and bodies in preparation for meditation. Asanas help us to work out all the aches, give compassion to our pain, activate the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, and steady the breath. Only when we are feeling well in our bodies are we ready to, as the yogis say, “take our seat.” It is in our seat that the real work begins. And that is of listening.

There’s a well-known saying I love that goes, “Praying is talking to God, meditating is listening to God.” Through meditation, the answers come. I’m not saying it’s easy, but the answers are there. They are the tiniest whispers waiting to be heard. In those whispers, you will find clues on how to engage with that deep longing you have to align with purpose. If you follow the clues, like breadcrumbs, they will lead you back home.

In yoga, when we work the body, we are working towards liberation. Liberation brings freedom from all we think we should be and provides clarity about who we are meant to be. And yoga isn’t the only way to do this, although I am admittedly partial to it. Any activity that brings you into the present moment – aerobic exercise, taking walks, gardening, weight lifting – can be a vehicle for seeing our purpose more clearly.

When we work on committing to finding our purpose, to thriving instead of just surviving, our way of being ripples out to others around us. Like throwing a pebble into a pond, we begin to inspire and lift up others so that they, in turn, can live their purpose and inspire and lift up others. And so on, and so on. This is community wellness. This is the foundation we are building – supporting and encouraging each other to be well and do good.  We’d love for you to join us.

Carrie DeJesus is the Physical Wellness Services Coordinator for The Community Well. She is a certified yoga teacher, and also practices law.