The Heart of Yoga

Posted February 1, 2018

by Jenny Seham


I brought T.K. V. Desikachar’s, The Heart of Yoga, Developing a Personal Practice, to study while waiting to have a follow-up chest x-ray. Chapter 6, “Pranayama,” seemed a good place to continue my reading. Earlier that day, I woke up feeling, more than hearing, the word: “Prana.” It resounded, more than sounded, and informed my thoughts and movements, guiding me to focus on breathing, and life source, rather than dwell on not breathing, or not breathing very well.

My delicious plan to stay-cation through the holidays and catch up with family, friends, and lots of yoga classes jumped the rails several days earlier when I felt a tightness in my chest and a seemingly insuperable fatigue. The ability to achieve sukha, comfort and lightness, and sthira, steady alertness, through asanas, or to sit in meditation, or otherwise “practice” yoga suddenly seemed out of reach. I felt abandoned even by the constancy of Gayatri mantra, that had, for more than a month, opened every sadhana, and vibrated in my body and accompanied me throughout my day. Sad and lonely, at least I had my sweet dog whose love remained constant and unconditional.

And then the Gayatri came back. It woke me and found my pulse again. It was the day before I felt, heard, and re-connected to “prana..’that which is infinitely everywhere,’” and went for the follow up x-ray. I was not alone.

I had contracted pneumonia and the diagnosis gave me one way to understand the exhaustion and sickness. Now, sitting in the radiology waiting room, with the words of Desikachar, I was finding my way back to yoga practice, and other ways of understanding. Prana, “can be described as something that flows continuously from somewhere inside us, filling us and keeping us alive: it is vitality.”

I continued reading and considering the irony of my condition. My breathing was labored. I certainly had an awareness of breath and breathing, yet, simultaneously felt the prana outside rather that inside of myself, and the vitality simply missing. I felt dismayed by the seriousness of my condition, from both a medical and a yogic perspective. However, I knew my way back and could start with that which seemed the most difficult: Pranayama.

The very first week of Yoga Teacher Training, Lisa Benner observed, “you need to be perfect, don’t you?” I was surprised because I didn’t know how she knew that from my arm position. She was right, and I continued to observe my attachment to that ideal, especially in asana practice until I thought I had reached a comfortability and state of non-attachment. Here, in my breathing, however, the attachment came back. I initially could not continue practice without breathing fully and felt abandoned by my body, mind and spirit. That is a very tough place to be. Losing the attachment to even a perfect breath and certainly to a perfect sadhana has opened my books, my heart, my mind and I am beginning to allow the prana to flow inside again. Teacher training has been invigorating, funny, communal, loving, inspiring, and essential. I am grateful to ALL of my teachers, including my fellow trainees who are abundantly generous in their love and companionship during this journey. Namaste.


Welcome to our Teacher Trainee blog. Throughout our 200 Hour Teacher Training session, we’ll feature a blog post written by one of our trainees. To find out more about the Hathavidya teacher training offered at Bread and Yoga, click here.


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