Inner Peace—The New Vital Sign
Vital signs. Do you know them? They vary with a person’s age, weight and gender. When I hear the term, “vital sign,” I immediately think of a typical scene from a medical TV series. You know the scene. There’s chaos everywhere. The camera zooms in on panicked faces as the “victim” is wheeled down the hospital corridor. The doctor shouts for the patient’s vital signs. Someone responds in a harried voice, “Temperature 97, blood pressure 180 over 130, heart rate 95, respiratory rate 30.” Without missing a beat, the doctor sums it all up and quickly determines a course of action that brings the patient out of shock and back to life.
Balancing the Vitals
Never have I heard the ER doctor recommend yoga! Of course not. Yoga is not going to cure a bullet wound. We need a doctor for that! Nevertheless, we all have vital signs. And while you may be incented to optimize yours, there is a healthy range for all of them. Body temperature often varies around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Healthy blood pressure is around 120 over 80. Pulse for the average adult ranges from 50 to 80 beats per minute, and a healthy respiratory rate is about 16 to 20 breaths per minute. There are an infinite number of variables and conditions that can affect one’s vital signs. Change one and you will undoubtedly affect the other.
Like the world around us, our body has its own unique ecosystem with each one of us constantly seeking to balance our vital signs according to a myriad of external circumstances. Luckily we don’t have to think about keeping our vital signs in balance. It happens (mostly) automatically. Whether you come to the practice of yoga to strengthen, stretch or balance the body, we are all drawn to yoga for its calming benefits. In an increasingly busy world, inner peace has become equally elusive. And while we continually strive for outer successes, it is inner peace above all else, that we truly desire. We can only deny real inner peace for so long because we eventually bump up against the temporary and whimsical nature of outer fulfillment.
Inner Peace—The New Vital Sign
Why not begin now? Beyond the four physical vital signs (that eventually stop altogether) there is only one, constant, Vital Sign—Inner Peace. The world will tell you otherwise. In a futile effort to meet the body’s physical needs and wants, the world will have you seek peace externally, where it cannot be found. Take care of your body as best you can for sure, but look deeper for steady minded Sthira Buddhi. The experience of unshakable inner peace, if even for a moment, is an extension of true Self. If true Self is eternal, then the experience of it must be constant and ever available. Yoga is the practice that joins us, in mind, with this truth. It is the higher practice of yoga.
Let inner peace be your new vital sign. Regardless of the situation, it trumps all the others. On or off the mat, stay with your yoga practice and inner peace will come. The other vital signs will naturally take care of themselves. They will trend, spike, rise and fall according to physical stimulus, but ironically, it is steady inner peace that awaits your gentle attention. It has less to do with the body and more about how the body (and the world around us) is perceived. Yoga shifts this hidden presence to the surface of our awareness where it belongs. We experience it as inner peace and the immeasurable joy it brings.