The doctor was also puzzled and, curious, he decided to do a small experiment.
He hooked the patient up to a monitor and followed him to a yoga class. Here’s what he found:
The moment the practice ended and he stepped off the mat, the ‘yoga effect’ disappeared. His heart rate went up, blood pressure rose, and his breathing became more shallow. All of the symptoms that led to the diagnosis returned within minutes.
In reviewing the results of this experiment, the doctor and patient drew the conclusion that the man’s yoga practice had limited itself to time spent on the mat and not been integrated into his everyday life. This resulted in a tension between the ‘yoga heart’ and the ‘rest of the day’ heart. Looked at another way, we could say that the man’s spiritual practice began and ended with the yoga mat.
For me, this story highlights the importance of integrating our ‘spiritual practice’ into the rest of our lives.
All too often, we cordon off our ‘spiritual selves,’ only letting them out to play in certain places (yoga studios) or times (meditation time).
The end-game of any spiritual practice isn’t to get really good at the practice, but rather to take the lessons learned during the practice and integrate them into our daily lives. It’s to become more fully at home in our lives and our Selves, reconnecting with the innate gifts that we all carry so that we may share them more deeply with the world.
Why not make that integration process easier by bringing spiritual practices to places where you don’t necessarily expect to find them?
Over the past few years, I’ve facilitated breathwork groups in ballet studios, offices, living rooms, wooded glades, theaters, shops, and under the desert stars. These spaces become ‘sacred’ by virtue of the fact that people have gathered in them with the intention of exploring the breath, connection, and Spirit. Teaching in these spaces as opposed to a meditation or yoga studio immediately communicates the idea that ‘spirituality’ is a constant presence. That we, as human beings, are intrinsically spiritual creatures and that, while meditation spaces are lovely, we don’t need them to connect with our spiritual selves.
All of this being said, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with yoga or meditation studios. They are, for the most part, beautiful, clean spaces to hold a spiritual practice. I just choose not to use them because I believe that we need a bit of extra help integrating spirituality into our every day lives.