Since having viral meningitis almost 2 years ago I have had to relearn how to use my energy, not only in how I exercise but in all facets of my life, my relationships, my attention from moment to moment, even in where I place significance or value. This quest has challenged me to ask questions like, where is my core? And what is my source of energy? And how do I tap into that source more often? My recovery has been an exploration of these questions as well as many revelations about what takes my energy away and how I can have positive boundaries in my life to maintain my health and build my power.
The word core is from the latin cor, which means heart. There is a lot of talk in yoga about moving from your heart,opening your heart or even using your heart instead of your head. When I first started doing yoga, this was very confusing to me. I thought, “do they mean my organ?” And when I think of what is popularly understood as the core I think of the abdomen. So, what does it all mean?
As I have endeavored on my path as a yogini, I have come to relate core or heart with the source of my consciousness and energy. So, now in my yoga classes when I say, “remember the heart in all things.” I am talking about that source. Where did I come from? What is life? What keeps it all moving? The word yoga is a verb, and it means to yoke or connect to consciousness or this source, the heart in all things.
It was one of Einstein’s dreams to discover a formula for a unified field and now modern physics is creeping closer and closer to the ancient wisdom of yoga. It appears there IS a unified field, there is something that binds everything together. There is something that we all share! And from the perspective of both yoga and ayurveda it is our connection to this unified field that gives us strength, wisdom, vitality and a deep capacity to heal. This is essentially what meditation is, a chance to reconnect with our source. It is also why we need to sleep so much. It’s in very restful sleep, when we completely surrender to the current of this energy, that we do most of our healing.
So, when I say core, another way to think about it is an endless, benevolent, abundant, intelligent source that gives rise to your consciousness and gives you the energy to move about and live your life. Moving from your core then, is having an open and constant connection flowing from this source. When I remember that I am part of a bigger picture and basically made from star dust, I feel deeply inspired about my life. But it’s one thing to just think about it and a totally other thing to feel it. And does having a washboard stomach really help you with this? I’m not convinced.
In Ayurveda we have a word for one’s physical strength or vigor- Ojas. Ojas is a physical substance which we can build or deplete, and which literally holds and transmits the intelligence and power of this universal source in our body. When we become disconnected from this source through lack of sleep, stress, or even toxicity in the body, we deplete our Ojas and this makes us less receptive to our source and as a result exhausted or even sick. For me, meningitis was a wake up call to all of the ways I was depleting myself. I don’t think this is uncommon in our culture- to work very hard or be exposed to amazing amounts of stress and to have a health crash as a result.
Did you know we have a “sleep bank”? Basically, your body requires a certain amount of sleep every night and if you aren’t getting it, it will keep track. After meningitis I was seriously in debt and started sleeping about 12 hours a night- and I’m talking dead to the world kind of sleep. It was amazing! Being rested in this way started to yield clarity around the stressors in my life. But the tricky thing about changing my relation to stressors meant I had to change my own behavior. I had habituated certain types of communication and relationships in my life, and it was just as stressful, if not more to try and change these habits- Enter Core Power.
Already being in a state of depletion, I wasn’t sure where or how I could muster the strength to meet the challenges facing me to heal. But this was not my first rodeo… It was challenging circumstances in my life that originally brought me to my yoga practice, and so at a loss really, I yielded completely to my yoga as my primary job to assist me in my healing journey. And it worked! It was through the commitment and deepening of these practices that I reconnected to the source, my core, the place of my power. It was through my memory and connection to the bigness of life and the interconnectedness of all things that I grew the courage to meet the challenges facing me.
It hasn’t been easy, but in truth, I feel stronger and more confident now than I did before meningitis. I began strength training with Kathy Lucas just a year after my initial illness, which is not something I ever imagined myself doing. We do squats and jumps and swing steel clubs around and as a yogi, at first I wasn’t really sure what we were doing. Steel clubs are heavy and if you are going to hold one and then move it around to dance Music, you need to develop a certain amount of confidence and also self respect- where are my boundaries? What is my goal? This training required me to tap in to my source- to ask myself, Who am I and what do I think I’m capable of? And with Kathy’s expert guidance this training has completely retrained me in how to move.
If I imagine cultural images of strength training, I think of strong hard bodies. But overexerting ourselves or even just becoming physically rigid is another way to deplete Ojas. So even our very good intentioned exercise can be depleting us. This goes for our Asana too. This is why at the beginning of my classes we form an intention- so that the practice can serve us, build our Ojas, not take it away. How can we move in a way that doesn’t just make our muscles bigger, but actually gives us courage to meet the challenges of our life. How can our physical practices actually become a refuge, where we reconnect to our source, and leave the practice more energized than when we showed up?
Now, as I’m swinging steel clubs around, dancing, or even just doing a gentle asana practice, it’s with a steady focus and strong foundation. I am moving from my core- from the knowledge of my true strength and vitality. And also with a deep respect for this power because I can deplete it. So, it is with great reverence and respect that I build my strength, my Ojas, so I can be receptive to a deep abiding force that is reaching towards me in every moment.