by Robbin Alston
Àse (pronounced “ah-shay”; also spelled ashe) is a divine word in West Africa, which means “the power to make things happen.” Àse is a cosmic energy that flows through everything, much like the Chinese concept of chi or prana, and is the life force that is manifested by what we say and what we think. Others translate Àse to mean, “so be it” or “and so it is.” The common message is one which implies action.
In essence, Àse is a manifested energy, which becomes affirmed through both our thoughts and speech. Our thoughts either empower or disempower us. Àse reflects what we express to the universe through our thoughts and speech. Àse yoga is a practice wherein we experience our personal power for transformation. Here, poses do not define yoga; our practice defines yoga.
Neither certification nor classes qualify us to heal or transform other people’s lives. It is the lessons learned and our understanding of our experiences that are the key to changing our own lives. In changing our own lives, only then can we assist in the changing of the lives of others.
Àse Yoga offers as a practice these seven lessons learned that change lives.
1. Breath awareness
We take breathing for granted. Often, we’re not conscious of our breath or the connection our breath has with everything we do. What we know is that breathing is vital to reducing stress, creating balance and restoring health. Breathing deeply, and exhaling completely, relaxes the mind, delivers more oxygen to the bloodstream, slows our respiration and helps the immune system fight infection. Most importantly, Dennis Lewis writes in The Tao of Natural Breathing that 70 percent of waste is eliminated through our lungs. Knowing that, Àse Yoga places a great deal of emphasis on recalibrating our breath by teaching students to intimately experience their inhales and exhales.
Scientific studies reveal that meditation leads to numerous bio-psychological benefits such as reducing negative feelings, inducing relaxation, reducing stress, improving our immune system and lowering our blood pressure. It even strengthens the prefrontal cortex, that part of the brain which influences our positive feelings and moods. Meditation, therefore, is medicine for the mind. This mental respite seems as essential to our health as what we eat. Although countless meditation styles and techniques exist—passive, active, transcendental, guided—they all aim to heal, calm the mind and bring clarity to our lives.
3. Daily restorative and structural movements
Àse yoga consists of energy releasing and restorative movements. Through Àse yoga, we learn to release years of stress, tension and fear by moving the body in a way to release energy and restore balance. When we experience stress, tensions or trauma, we tense up. Often tension stays within our muscles, radiating from the pelvis all the way into our face for a lifetime.
The gentle stretches of Àse yoga build self-confidence and body alignment while invigorating the body from the soles of the feet to the top of the head. As we move, we connect with the vital energy within us, beginning with our root energy, which provides us with a sense of groundedness; sacral energy, which opens us to self-love and trust; and solar energy, which gives us an entry to our personal power. We move into our heart energy, which provides the space for us to forgive others and ourselves and to love unconditionally; our throat energy opens us to communicating our inner truth; our third eye, which empowers us with insight, knowledge and intuition. Ascending to the crown of our head, we feel at one with our true nature, peace and our divine nature. Àse yoga improves the circulation in our bodies and unblocks our energy centers.
According to researchers, a link exists between our throat area and the parasympathetic nervous system, which regulates our relaxation response, cell activity, metabolism and production of thyroid hormones. The throat is where our communication center resides. Our communications are a plethora of stories about our mothers, fathers and their dysfunctions, about our bouts with depression and unhappy marriages, about our children, broken hearts, our disappointments and even our regrets.
Yet, if we become still, quiet and conscious, we will find that inside these infinite stories lay “misunderstood” experiences and unresolved emotional situations that are stealing our life away. With Àse yoga, we focus on cleansing and purifying this powerful center so that we can let go anything that is hindering our ability to communicate.
Of course, we engage in relationships, but relating is something else. In relating, our practice focuses on authenticity and feelings, rather than on performing or intellectualization. When we perform, we exert effort into the external display of the activity, but not necessarily inner benefits. Likewise, with intellectualization, we become stuck into the information and acquiring more words, more certificates, more platitudes, more degrees, more titles, foregoing the experience of life.
However, by relating, we experience our own relevancy and a deep sense of well-being and healing in connecting with others. Relating is a unique aspect of Àse yoga in that the practice cultivates a sense of community, fulfillment and authenticity. When we relate, we authentically engage others and ourselves so that we access life’s infinite possibilities. Simply, relating is not talking; it is communicating. It is not love, but loving. It is not doing, but being. It is not wishing, but actualizing, and it is not expecting, but accepting.
6. Healthy eating and living
Research has proven what we eat affects the quality of our heath. Cardiovascular diseases, clogged arteries, diabetes, hypertension, obesity and other illnesses can be minimized, if not healed, by what and how we eat. According to the National Cancer Institute, poor diets kill an estimated three out of four Americans each year. The conscious effort to disinherit the diseases that may run in our families through yoga includes healthy eating with plant-based, personalized meals. Healing powers exist in the right spices and eating fresh vegetables in a peaceful environment.
The Àse yoga practice is a love affair with oneself. We’re not simply a number, an occupation, a net worth, a salary, a statistic. Our existence is not diminished by what we do not have or who we’ve become. Nor is someone agile or flexible, more of a yogi or yogini. However, our worth is immeasurable. Most people don’t even know their value, because of the messages they’ve seen on television, in magazines or heard growing up, so they hide themselves. In fact, the messages we receive cause us to question our existence. Secretly, we feel worthless, and begin to hide. We live life complaining about what we didn’t have rather than what we’ve been given.
Through these seven practices, Àse yoga allows us to unveil ourselves, to experience our innermost core and to feel good.
Dr. Robbin Alston is a psychologist, professor and author. She founded Àse Yoga Studio & Tea Room, in Philadelphia, so that everyone could benefit from the healing powers of yoga. Alston has taught and shared Àse Yoga at conferences and retreats throughout the country. Connect with her at 267-886-8600 or AseYogaStudio.com. September 2015.