As we continue to navigate the uncertainty of the times during the Covid-19 pandemic, it is so important for us to remember to take to our mats and tap into the peace of yoga. Yoga is a wonderful practice at anytime of our life, but it is truly necessary during times of stress. (Yoga is not just the asana or poses, it is the unification of body, breath and mind, so anything you do with complete awareness is yoga!) It offers us the chance to step away from the outside world and shift inward, to slow down and to use our inner resources to renew and restore. As we slowly watch the earth awaken after a long winter sleep, we can see the life that is emerging. The buds are getting ready to burst open and bring nourishment to the plants that they grow on. The birds are building nests to provide safe homes for the new life that will soon inhabit them. Life all around. This happens because of the resting period, the yin season of winter. Just as the earth needs time to restore itself, so do we. What do you do to restore? Maybe for you it is raking up the last of the fall leaves, or taking along walk or a luxurious bath. Whatever helps you to feel rested and at peace, make time for that, so that when you are ready to face the world again, you are stronger and more resilient, you are ready for to watch life unfold.
How often are you truly paying attention? Is your mind drifting in and out of thoughts, planning, remembering? For most of us staying focused on what we are doing is not easy. The world we live in tells us that time is money. That in order to be successful we must do more and be more. There is no time to rest. The practice of Yin yoga invites you into the present moment. As you arrive into the body, you practice the art of awareness which is a precarious balancing act of effort and ease. With nowhere to go except in, we are completely conscious of the physical body, it's shape, it's limitations. We may fall into old patterns of judgement and loathing, of wishing our experience could be different. This is where we must meet ourselves with compassion and kindness. We limit ourselves and our joy with the notion that we are not enough as we are right now. By becoming aware of our innermost thoughts, we can begin to release these patterns of judgement. We soften and open to more joy, to love. We are better able to see the beauty in life even amidst challenging times.
What kind of yoga practice do you find the most challenging? Is it the flowing, stronger Hatha practice that puts demands on your body's strength and endurance or is it the quieter, more still practices that invite you to spend time inside your mind?
If you answered the quieter practices, you are not alone! Many people are so caught in in the mode of doing, rushing. planning, that when they are asked to slow down and turn inward it becomes a real challenge. The mind jumps from thought to thought, or it becomes impatient with the body or the teacher!
When I first started my practice, I struggled with mindfulness and the slower practices. Meditation, that was a hard NO! I hated being alone and so I kept myself busy, not allowing myself to slow down or rest, even if I felt exhausted. As my practice deepened, so too did my understanding of the importance of resting in the present moment. Even when moving, I could bring a quality of peacefulness to what ever I was doing. I learned to see my patterns and habits and see how they were helping or harming me. Now as a yoga teacher, I see the shift that takes place during a class. When students first arrive, the energy is sometimes electric, almost buzzing and then as they move through the practice I witness the faces and the bodies soften as the students shift from doing to just being. By the end of class as they settle into savasana, the energy is completely different. The sense of peacefulness and calmness is palpable.
These quieter practice may challenge you in ways that a stronger practice cannot. You are invited into you, to learn about YOU. Yoga involves self-study, even if you are there for the physical benefits, you are wooed into self-reflection, to see what you think are your strengths and weaknesses, your patterns of behaviours. Yoga challenges you to fully see YOU, right now.