the healing power of yoga

regular practice can change your DNA

As our thoughts flow towards France and those involved in the events that killed 17 people on January 7th, 2015, we stand alongside the estimated three million men, women and children who took to the streets in the name of freedom, tolerance and love.

Our thoughts also turn inwards as we question our own beliefs and values and strive to make some sense of the world. We may also experience feelings of helplessness, as our beliefs in acceptance, compassion and hope seem ineffective weapons against a world in conflict.

The actions of the Yogi are neither white (good) nor black (bad); but the actions of others are three kinds: good, bad and mixed. (Patanjali. Bk.4.7.)

The practice of yoga is often misunderstood and seen as lack of involvement in the activities of the modern world. ‘Acceptance’ is often misunderstood as approval and a lack of desire to change. But yoga and meditation helps us cultivate a mind that is able to accept the unacceptable and reconcile these external events with the need for clarity and composure in our own minds. This flexibility allows the flame of the human spirit to survive, and through the living of our own lives avoid the rigidity and narrowness that creates the disasters and violence that inflicts our world.

The cultivation and an understanding of Patanjali’s ethical disciplines, yamas, can help us rebuild our faith when faced with tragedy. Evil is not new and we need to equip ourselves with ways of facing this within ourselves and in others. By pretending it does not exist we are open to the shock that accompanies its striking presence. In ahimsa it is believed that if we do wrong we should ask for justice and if the wrong is done by another, they should be forgiven. This does not mean that a yogi does not oppose evil or wrongdoing. The evil and the act are what are wrong – the person should receive the forgiveness and the act should be fought and punished.

In abhaya there is freedom from fear, and in abhaya freedom from anger. Fear creates anger as we strive to hold on to all that we see as real. Fear of loss – livelihood, youth, possessions – leads to anger as we strive to ward off the ultimate fear, death. Without fear there is no anger and as we try to live within this guidance we are trying to create a life that allows the spirit to be free and without fear.

An acceptance of Patanjali’s words and the cultivation of own minds wisdom and flexibility through mindfulness will help the healing process as we try and find some meaning in the wake of this latest tragedy.

Through meditation we are able to accept and grow through these challenges, even reaching parts of the mind which may never have been revealed. They are there. They are real.


Grief holds the possibility of growth. How we view our world may have been shaken and our boundaries violated. We may need to review how we see the world and our place in it. We may find it difficult to trust those that we feel hold responsibility for our safety. These attitudes may be bought into our practice and undermine what may have been a haven unrelated to the real world. Our work now is to bring the outside in and make it part of our growth. Acceptance does not mean forgetting but letting go. Just as we need to yield and let go in our physical practice we also need to accept anything that arises in our mind. True mindfulness does not allow us to reject any thoughts and feelings but rather to accept that they are there and part of us.

We can also take solace in the outpouring of solidarity that has bought political leaders, nations and people of all faiths together to show their support, compassion and belief in freedom of speech and action. This brings hope and demonstrates that evil will not extinguish the love we have for our brothers and sisters of all faiths. By cultivating a deeper understanding of why these conflicts develop – the beliefs.

Vigils and pledges of support for the victims of this tragedy demonstrate that love is more powerful than hate, the pen is mightier than the sword and that hope and determination will create a future where peace, tolerance and acceptance are shared by all – on and off the mat.

Je suis Charlie – a mantra for freedom and hope.

Read next >> noah mazé