Scientists say it takes seven-ten years to regenerate and replace every cell in your body, including bones and organs. A whole new body every 7 years! And, of course, many cells, such as your skin cells, regenerate much more quickly. Of course there is a strong genetic matrix that you are rebuilding upon, but that generation is also responding to whatever it is we’re asking of our bodies. If our muscles development is strong, then our bones will bulk up to support those muscular attachments. For example, researchers are now studying how Osteoporosis may be reversed through weight-bearing resistance training like yoga.
Mentally and emotionally, we have the opportunity to remake and re-pattern ourselves in much faster time frame. Just like genetics, mentally and emotionally we have samskaras (literally “ruts”): persistent, stubborn patterns and stories about ourselves and the world. Sometimes these are helpful and even truthful, and sometimes they’re not! Yoga and meditation practice can help create profound shifts in our internal position and help us open up to new perspectives.
Have you ever experienced this? You start your yoga practice feeling a certain way… obsessing about a tense conversation, feeling disjointed or stressed, feeling not good enough? Then you practice. At the end, you sit up after Savasana and there’s a change. Sometimes there is huge shift and you leave your mat feeling like a new person! Other times, it’s more subtle, there’s still reside of the thought/feeling rut you were in, but maybe there’s a bit more space and a new perspective is beginning to open up. This is what I call repositioning our internal self, and repositioning our bodies through yoga postures is an incredibly effective way to initiate that internal, attitudinal repositioning.
This idea of repositioning ourselves internally is by no means a new idea, but it is in a way radical in our culture. Most of our society deals with challenges by reacting to external conditions first and trying to force those to change. Yoga, along with many spiritual traditions, invites us to not react right away. Rather, we pause and go inward first, and ask: What do I have the power to shift in the situation? What can I learn about myself and shift in myself?
The theologian Richard Rohr writes, “We will almost always project what we refuse to see in ourselves onto others.” (A Lever and a Place to Stand, pg 75). We can reposition ourselves to more fully see ourselves. We can quiet down and listen so we can hear what we’ve refused to hear. Often the only thing we can shift initially is our attitude, our words, and our actions, but those are profound points of leverage. In making and allowing those shifts, which might be a life-long practice, we have the best chance of leading by clear and compassionate example to create profound shifts in our world.