“You gotta have some practice. Otherwise, it’s just going to become a memory. And practice means daily — doing something that evokes something of that experience, connecting to what you saw there.”
— Gabor Maté, on integrating the ayahuasca experience into daily life
As I see it, there are two aspects of integrating the Ayahuasca experience. First, staying connected to the sense of unity and wholeness that we experience in ceremony, even after we return home, and second, taking action on the insights and guidance we received to create positive change in our life. The first aspect, connection, gives us the inspiration and energy for the second aspect, action. Both are essential to fully integrating and making the most of the Ayahuasca experience.
When I do integration work with people, I strongly recommend developing a daily home yoga practice because it’s the most effective tool I know for maintaining the energetic opening, mental clarity and heart-connection that we often experience following a good Ayahuasca ceremony. Yoga also helps keep your body strong and healthy so you can do the work you’re inspired to do and serve the greater good, manifesting change on the personal, community and planetary levels.
The teacher of my teachers, the legendary Professor T Krishnamacharya (1888-1989), recognized the evolving needs of modern people (especially busy householders) and developed an efficient and effective method called “Vinyasa Yoga” that integrates movement, breath, mindfulness and meditation in a seamless practice. His teachings are based on the fundamental principle that yoga must respect and be adapted to the needs of the individual, making it an inherently trauma-sensitive and inclusive approach, which feels especially relevant in the current zeitgeist.
Just as the Ayahuasca experience is different for everyone, the daily practice you take up should be unique to you, based on factors like your age, physical condition, cultural background and interests. Although everyone’s yoga practice may look different on the outside, when the essential principles of Tantrik Hatha Yoga are established it catalyzes an alchemical process that leads the practitioner to the mystical realization common to all spiritual traditions. Through the breath and postural exercises that are designed to purify and balance our energy, our mind becomes still and clear, revealing that which lies beyond the mind — the spiritual heart, the home of our true nature. Being connected to our heart allows us to relate and act from a place of non-reactivity, compassion and care. My teachers called this individual journey to our source the “Heart of Yoga”.
When I spoke with a Shipibo ayahuasquero and explained to him this approach to yoga, he nodded in recognition, saying “Yaaaaaah, yoga es concentración… kushishinan!”, pointing to his heart, his mind and then to the sky. The Shipibo, like the yogis and mystics of all traditions, recognize that our mind, heart and source are all one. You could say that Ayahuasca and Yoga share a common goal — to heal our body/mind so that we can recover this connection, and in doing so, recover the sense of wholeness and basic goodness that is our birthright.
“I participated in a yoga course for the first time… and that’s made an enormous difference (in my own transformation), more than, for me, drinking the plant has ever done. Plants are exciting and kind of sexy these days, but it’s not the only way.”
— Gabor Maté on his recent dedication to a daily yoga practice
The discipline of maintaining a daily practice as well as the quality of attention we cultivate within the practice empowers us with the clarity and energy to take appropriate action on the positive changes we want make in our life. These changes can include diet and lifestyle choices, the way we relate to self and others, or our career and creative pursuits.
Practicing in the morning is a great way to perform a daily comprehensive check-in with yourself on the physical, energetic, mental/emotional levels. It’s an opportunity to ask, “how am I doing today?”, and draw on that insight to guide your decisions for the rest of the day.
I often recommend journaling as part of your yoga practice. Writing your thoughts and feelings down can help clarify them and perhaps give you some helpful perspective on whatever you’re dealing with at that time. In addition, reading inspirational books or studying the classic yoga texts can provide inspiration and useful insight.
Other aspects that you might incorporate into your practice might be prayer, chanting, building an altar, drawing or painting, listening to music, singing or playing an instrument. Whatever helps you create a devotional, sacred mood will enrich your practice and ensure that it’s fulfilling on every level.
My goal when working at the Temple of the Way of Light is to teach the pasajeros how to practice real yoga in a way that’s right for them, not only as a support while in ceremony, but as a way to integrate the experience into their daily lives and continue the healing process long after they return home. It’s my hope that by the end of our time together at the Temple, the participants will understand what I mean when I say, “Ayahuasca is Yoga, and Yoga is Integration”.
Brian James is a Vinyasa Yoga teacher in the tradition of Krishnamacharya and Desikachar, known for his unique ability to make advanced yoga accessible to everyone, regardless of age, body type or fitness level. He's dedicated to helping people access the profound healing potential of yoga in a way that's practical and relevant to everyday life. For the past 20 years he's been exploring the intersection of yoga, music and shamanism for personal and planetary healing, and is dedicated to supporting others in developing a daily personal practice.
Brian will be running yoga classes at the Temple throughout August and September 2017 and again in 2018 - details to be announced in the coming months.
For more information about Brian, visit http://brianjamesyoga.com