The Body as a Doorway to the Present Moment

It was 6:30 in the morning. I was in the Shadowbrook Room at Kripalu, taking an intermediate yoga class with Kripalu Yoga teacher and faculty member Jurian Hughes. I’d come to get away for a few days, to take a break from the merry-go-round of daily life. I’d been juggling a lot personally and professionally, so a respite was especially welcome.

As I gently moved in and out of Plank, Pigeon, Warrior, and Downward Dog, Jurian’s soothing voice repeated these lines from a poem called “I Talk to My Body,” by Anna Swir: “You may become for me a gate through which I will leave myself and a gate through which I will enter myself. A plumb line to the center of the earth and a cosmic ship to Jupiter.”

I liked the sound of that. I could intuitively feel the wisdom of those words. I took deeper breaths and allowed myself to sink into my body, stretching my muscles and holding some poses longer than I thought I could. I allowed myself to savor the pleasurable sensations, and rode out the uncomfortable ones. I began to realize how often I eschew my body, how much I neglect its wisdom and its power. I live in my mind, the province of racing thoughts that often provoke sadness about the past or anxiety about the future. Yet, as I breathed into my body in Jurian’s yoga class, the past and future drifted away. I was in the now.

My experience is no surprise to Jurian, who says that “through yoga, dance, or meditation—or other deep awareness-building practices of the body—we have the opportunity to travel inside to a place of deep connection to the Self, with a capital S, or to travel outward into a place of expansion, where we may experience ourselves as connected to everything.”

As I transitioned into Bridge pose, I watched my abdomen rise and fall with my breath. Focused on my experience in the physical container of my body, I wasn’t worrying about work or relationship struggles. They weren’t happening at that moment. I wasn’t living in the anxiety my mind creates. I was living in my body, and my body was taking Jurian’s yoga class. That was all there was.

“The mind tends to get drawn into story, to things we make up to give meaning to the past or future,” Jurian says. “But the body lives in the present moment. We experience it in the here and now.”

Finding and working with the edge of deep sensation in a yoga pose, we can awaken all the layers of ourselves, Jurian says—the physical, the energetic, the mental/emotional, the higher mind or witness consciousness, and the “bliss body.” “When we make space for alignment of all the layers,” she says, “we just might, in that place of acceptance, experience a moment of bliss, a moment of freedom or letting go.”

As the class came to a close and we transitioned into Corpse pose, I delighted in the opportunity to rest. I felt grateful for my body. It grounds me in the here and now, which is ultimately all there is. Lying on my yoga mat as Jurian’s class wound down, I had more than an intellectual understanding that my body is a doorway into a deeper connection to myself and to everything and everyone around me. I actually felt the connection, and knew my body to be “a plumb line to the center of the earth and a cosmic ship to Jupiter.”

There’s no telling where it might take me.

Portland Helmich is the creator, host, and producer of the Kripalu Perspectives podcast series. She has been investigating natural health and healing as a host, reporter, writer, and producer for more than 15 years.

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