Last night my friend Alia, who is a nutritionist and a yogini and a dancer and a mother, not necessarily in that order, said "I think of the human body as an ecosystem." She was talking about one of her passions, nutrition. She talked about many other cool concepts related to the gut and our health and how we process proteins and all kinds of things I could have listened to for hours, but it was this idea of the body as an ecosystem, a tiny little complex planet, that lodged in my brain.
I looked up "Ecosystem" this morning. One definition is: "a complex network or interconnected system." Another: "a biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment." When Alia was using "Ecosystem" as a metaphor, she explained that, just like the earth needs to find balance, so do our bodies. The oil spills, the plastics leaching into our water and soil, deforestation, all of these things are leading us to a frightening imbalance in our ecosystem.
I don't have a fraction of the knowledge that Alia has about nutrition or the digestive and elimination systems, nor am I an expert on the delicate nature of balancing our earth. But I am committed to finding balance, both as a student and a teacher in the Yoga room.
When you think about the body as an ecosystem, you have to include the mind. And yoga, of course, means "union" or connection, between the body and the mind. In practice, it is easy to focus just on the asanas-- are my shoulders level, can I balance for one whole minute, is my spine straight? But there is so much more. We are each a complete ecosystem, most of us rife with pollutants. The body, the mind, the heart, all the energy swimming through our bodies is interconnected. Everything must work with everything else to make balance.
For me, the pollutants that inhabit my ecosystem come in the form of coffee, poor night's sleep, too much screen time, shabby diet, a terribly busy life. I need to practice regularly to counter the energy that comes from being who I am, how I am. Sometimes when I practice, I am mentally hijacked- worried, stressed, tingling with nervous and chaotic energy. On those days, when the toxins originate in my mental and emotion body, I know that the most immediate path to balancing my ecosystem is to bust my own ass physically. I know that process will clean out some of the pollution. I need to work so hard that every thought, every fiber in my body is channeled into my practice so my mind, the part of my ecosystem that is nearing dangerous levels of contamination, can get a break.
Other days, in less stressful times, when my mind quieter, cleaner, my brain chatter a little bit less active, I have mental energy to practice differently. I can be more focused on the nuances of each asana, trusting that my brain won't take me to judgement or competition or other sentiments that inevitably lead me outside of my practice. My body still gets the physical practice; the process of balancing my ecosystem is still happening, but from a slightly different angle. On days like this, balance comes from drawing a little more from the mental part of my ecosystem.
Everyday when you practice Yoga, your little world needs something different. The end result is the same- balance.