The way I approach myself and my life can be seen clearly in the flow of practice, as I connect with the essence of who I am without the coverings I normally place on my being. Every time I step onto the mat it is a sort of homecoming, a subtle bowing in to my own life and heart as sacred.
When we practice yoga, we touch a place of peace and connection—and our deepest knowing. We see ourselves fully, the dark and the light, the messy and the controlled. We contact the full spectrum of who we are: we connect to our essence.
Over the years, I have thought quite a lot about the essence of my practice in another way. From the Chinese Medicine perspective, Essence (or Jing) is a highly refined primary energy in the body. Having steeped in the teachings of Chinese Medicine since my early years in yoga, I keep coming back to the metaphor of Essence: what is the distilled nature of my sadhana? What is my relationship to the deepest parts of myself that I uncover in my practice? Our yoga practice is one of those remarkable spaces where we can connect to the energetic imprint of our lives, and our Essence, in a real and profound way.
Jing is a like a precious treasure that we want to nurture, protect, and cultivate. Instead of overstraining in our practices and lives, we want build energy, cultivate equanimity, and honor where we are. Our storehouse of Essence is said to determine not only how long we live, but our vitality throughout our life. Practicing in a way that honors our Jing is to practice sustainably.
Essence and the body
According to Chinese Medicine, Essence is stored in the Kidneys, and it takes a deep energetic seat in the body. It also is the substance of samskaras, or patterning: it carries imprints from generation to generation, like DNA, while reflecting the habits and patterns of this lifetime.
As we contact Essence in our sadhana, we are connecting with our essence nature in the yogic sense as well. As we align ourselves through form, breathe deeply and sit in meditation, we come into close contact with our essence nature. Returning to the mat time and time again, we open up to a place where we can touch into and re-discover our deepest knowing, and the roots of our true nature. This happens naturally through the activation of the bandhas and the five prana vayus, and other yogic practices.
Practicing with Essence
Practicing with Essence in mind might at times look like curiosity: what is the essence of this moment, in this practice, in this posture? How does my practice reflect my patterning? Am I acting on patterns true to my essence nature, or out of habit? When we find our deep seat, we can practice from a place of clarity, knowing, curiosity, and healing.
The next time you step into the mandala of practice, notice the deeper whispers that upwell within. Listen. Take refuge in your intention, your sankalpa. Focus on the bandhas, and the energetic experience of your life and sadhana. Expand the breath, so that it includes everything—your whole self. In this way we are honoring and bowing in to our own lives just as they are—and in this fullness of allowing, we nourish and reaffirm our our Essence—the roots and heart of practice.