by Jivana Heyman
In one of the most poetic passages of his Yoga Sutras, Patanjali explains that pranayama, the breathing practices, allow our inner light, or spirit, to shine. He says, “As a result [of pranayama] the veil over the inner Light is destroyed.” (Sutra 2.52 translated by Swami Satchidananda).
This sutra conveys the power of pranayama to help us awaken. But what’s so poignant about this particular sutra is that it offers figurative imagery to convey the basic message he’s been trying to teach us thus far. The message is that we are Light–purusha, interconnected spiritual beings–and the yoga practices help us to remove the veil, or the obstacles, to experiencing that truth.
In the beginning of this same chapter (Sadhana Pada, the portion on practice), he identifies the main obstacles to our self-realization or enlightenment, which he calls the kleysa. The kleysa begin with one fundamental issue, the ignorance of our spiritual nature, which he refers to as avidya.
Avidya is a state of confusion. We have identified with the body and mind and believe that they are real. At the same time we think that spirit is an illusion, or unreal. According to sutra 2.5, “Ignorance is regarding the impermanent as permanent, the impure as pure, the painful as pleasant, and the non-Self as the Self.” (translated by Swami Satchidananda).
Overcoming avidya is truly the goal of yoga, but this shift in identification can feel impossible and confusing. How amazing it is to realize that the basic tools of yoga can support us in correcting this confusion. In particular, working with the breath offers such an accessible and practical way to expand into this deeper understanding of who we are. Pranayama has the power to not only destroy the veil over our inner light, but to allow us to shift our sense of self—to realize we are that light, that spirit.
I hope this is helpful. I’ll be exploring more of these ideas in my upcoming course, Making Pranayama Accessible: Overcoming Obstacles with the Breath. (The first session is FREE!) I hope you can join me! ⤵️
Pricing tiers, payment plans, & scholarships available
About the course:
How many times have you been told, “Just take a deep breath?”
According to the yoga teachings, breathing practices are among the most powerful practices we have. Yet, many of the common breathing practices are actually taught in ways that are not accessible or trauma-informed.
For many people focusing on the breath can increase anxiety instead of reducing it. So it’s important to find creative and gentle ways into working with the breath, which can help to bring about calm and reduce anxiety.
The breathing practices offer a direct way into the deepest aspects of our spiritual practice. The breath offers a link between the body and mind. The kleysas, the obstacles to our spiritual understanding, can all be addressed through the breath and offer us practical tools for increased self-awareness.
Join Jivana Heyman for an exploration of pranayama, focusing on finding safe, welcoming, and fun ways to approach these subtle and powerful tools.
This course will be an opportunity for study, discussion, and practice of the many aspects of the breath to support relaxation, nervous system regulation, preparation for meditation, and spiritual unfolding.
The Accessible Yoga Training Online is a foundational course for all yoga teachers, developed to assist trainees in learning to design yoga classes where all students can practice together regardless of age, size, ability, or experience level.
This foundational training will help you build a teaching practice that equips you with the tools you need to share yoga with all your students, while celebrating their differences and individuality.
Jivana Heyman, C-IAYT, E-RYT500, is the founder and director of the Accessible Yoga Association, an international non-profit organization dedicated to increasing access to the yoga teachings. He’s the author of Accessible Yoga: Poses and Practices for Every Body (Shambhala Publications), as well as the forthcoming book, Yoga Revolution: Building a Practice of Courage & Compassion (Shambhala Publications, Nov. 2021).
Jivana has specialized in teaching yoga to people with disabilities with an emphasis on community building and social engagement. Out of this work, the nonprofit Accessible Yoga Association was created to support education, training, and advocacy with the mission of shifting the public perception of yoga. Accessible Yoga offers Conferences, Community Forums, a Podcast, and a popular Ambassador program.
Jivana coined the phrase, “Accessible Yoga,” over ten years ago, and it has now become the standard appellation for a large cross section of the immense yoga world. He brought the Accessible Yoga community together for the first time in 2015 for the Accessible Yoga Conference, which has gone on to become a focal point for this movement.
Jivana is also the creator of the Accessible Yoga Training and the co-founder of the online Accessible Yoga School with Amber Karnes, which is a platform for continued education for yoga teachers in the field of equity and accessibility. They also created the Accessible Yoga Podcast in 2020.
Over the past 25 years, Jivana has led countless yoga teacher training programs around the world, and dedicates his time to supporting yoga teachers who are working to serve communities that are under-represented in traditional yoga spaces.