This Body is the Earth | Bikram Yoga as a Tool for Reconnection | Happy Earth Day!

Pranayama Deep Breathing Bikram Yoga Red Rock Crossing Sedona Arizona

by Ann Chrapkiewicz

For those of us who have been raised in civilizations of extractive capitalism, tools for healing and reconnection are needed.   Badly.  By all of us.

Disconnection, alienation, and estrangement from the earth (including our living, breathing bodies) is pretty much par for the course.

So on this Earth Day 2021 and all going forward, I want to include our human bodies as part of the earth that we celebrate, connect with, protect, love, and heal.

Our bodies are animated, organized, electrified, intelligent pieces of the earth!

Sadhguru often refers to our bodies as bits or pieces of the earth that we have picked up – accumulated – over time.

Lately I have been sensing and experiencing the fact that we humans and other life forms are essentially animated water – with again, plenty of organization and specialization!

Rabbit Pose Bikram Yoga Sedona Arizona Red Rock Crossing

What does this have to do with yoga?

For almost 10 years of my adolescent and early adult life, I had become quite disconnected from my body, in ways specific to my white suburban female demographic of the mid-1990s onward.

I have written about this elsewhere, but to recap: hunger and satiety became so unimportant to me that I stopped feeling them for almost a decade.  I ate – or didn’t eat – according to the math of slimness, but then would lose control.  Or I would eat until it hurt during some of my most stressful times.

In other words, I disconnected from my body.  And in doing so, I disconnected from the earth.

An outside abstraction (an imagined success of a certain body shape) became more important than reality (how it felt to be alive from moment to moment).

I was in serious need of a reality check!

Brief counseling and some independent reading helped me recognize my patterns as a moderate eating disorder.  Gender studies and self-analysis helped me see my patterns of approval-seeking.

But Bikram Yoga was the ultimate healer of it, the thing that transformed my psychological and neurological patterns.  The mental addiction to controlling food intake or calorie burning was disrupted (permanently, as far as I can tell – 18 years has passed without a single mental relapse!).  And the stress which led to bingeing was dissolved by the practice.

Bikram Yoga as Reconnection

My story is just one tiny example among tens of thousands. (And this is just one little aspect of my story.)

Your healing and reconnection might not be about food and eating.  It might be an addiction of another type.  It might be the need for achievement of physical or intellectual feats.  It might be the healing of various disconnections due to traumatic events, abusive relationships, or chronic stress.  It might be a behavioral pattern that keeps you in a situation that is harmful, isolating, or unhealthy.

One way to understand the thread that runs through these healing experiences is that at one point or another, we disconnected from the grand intelligence of our bodies.  We disconnected from the intelligence of these collected bits of the earth.

Whether due to gender-specific pressures, trauma, abuse, stress, our extractive economic systems, or simply mass media which tell us what we “should” look like.  We disconnected.

Otherwise the pain would be too great.  Otherwise we could not succeed.  Otherwise we could not be good enough.  Or so we thought.

But eventually the disconnected path becomes untenable for many of us.

We realize that we would rather feel good.  We would rather heal.  We would rather reconnect.  We realize that we can be of much better service to the planet – and fellow living bits of it – when we ourselves are feeling good, healed, reconnected.

Or perhaps – like in my case – I didn’t realize it initially.

I stepped into the hot room at the suggestion of an acquaintance and was shocked into reconnection.  I was blasted with the absolute, non-negotiable requirement of focusing on my own body and breathing for 90 minutes.

And it was at that point that I realized that I wanted to feel that good.  I wanted to feel hunger and respond to it.  I wanted to be connected.  Every day.

Red Rock Crossing Bikram Yoga Water Life

But What about the Earth?

I am most certainly in support of all of the education that happens on and around Earth Day. We have the not-so-small problems of resource extraction, human-induced habitat destruction, species extinction, and planetary transformation to realize and reckon with.  Of course.

But it doesn’t make sense to me to leave our bodies out of the equation of Earth Day.

What would happen if we committed 20 minutes a day to listening to the grand, atmospheric intelligence of our earthly breathing?  What if we committed 90 minutes a few times per week to move and strengthen our mineral-rich spines in their intended directions?  What if we stretched and massaged all of our blood vessels – large and small – with postures held in stillness?

What if we made it urgently important to reconnect with and inhabit this great organism that we move about in?

This is where a simple habit of yoga can be a radical act.  An act of reorganizing priorities, shutting off the onslaught of media messages, refusing to play along with the abstractions which essentially form our thoughts.  An act which naturally leads us to use less resources**, need less stuff, less junk food, less entertainment.  (You could even venture to say that this is a bit anti-capitalistic at its root….are we not reducing or eliminating the falsely-created needs of the whole system?  Yikes.)

After all, this body is not an abstraction out there.  This is not a distant polar ice problem, an invisible pollution disaster, or a climate-chaos situation that we can argue or donate our way out of.

Some of us set up a recycling bin, or throw money at a cause and say, “I’ve done my part.”  And then we turn around and poison our own living bits of earth with disconnected thoughts, stress-induced consumption, sugar and alcohol, blame, judgment, criticism, you know, all the things*.  Pollution of the internal sort.  Not a single one of us is immune.  We ALL have to train our minds and habits; we all need to heal ourselves.

Pranayama Deep Breathing Bikram Yoga Red Rock Crossing Sedona Arizona

The earth is right here, wrapped around your brain and enveloping your heart.  Its gasses are literally becoming your body every time you inhale.  Its waters are inside of you right now.

Let’s clean up the earth, and let’s start right here, inside.

That way, if it is a bit too late – if our civilization has set us on an irreversible course of atmospheric change – then we can at least train ourselves and our children to be loving and civil to ourselves and each other as things fall apart.

*In full awareness of the economic systems which create and depend on struggling under-classes, and in turn makes this challenge even greater.

**More than one critic has speculated that Bikram Yoga is “bad for the earth” because of its resource-use (to heat up and humidify a room).  Just to set the facts straight: my well-insulated, 15,000-cubic-foot hot room uses less gas and electricity in one whole year than an equivalent amount of plain-old retail storefront space uses just to cool itself in Michigan for the 6 warmest months.  I am not claiming to be perfectly green or no-emissions, but the unfoundedness and ignorance of this criticism makes me want to eyeroll!

photos by Janise Witt