Life is a journey and Yoga practice is one of the best friends to have with you on that journey! It doesn’t matter where you are, it doesn’t matter who you are. Yoga can be your companion.
We have all heard that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Yet many of us resist taking steps, making choices and working to change. Yoga can be a tool to help you understand the steps to take to help you achieve an enriched life. That journey can start today! What better a time than at the end of a year, with the concept that the new and better is just around the corner.
Because it does not matter how big that step is, it does not matter if you fall over with that first or any other step, it just matters that you took it. Always remember that life can be more exciting and joyful when it is approached as an exciting discovery rather than a chore and a problem to solve.
The difference between these approaches is simple;it’s a choice. Even though many of our actions happen unconsciously, we still have a strong capacity to choose our actions.
And, we must never lose sight of the fact that it is our actions that determine who we are, not our thoughts or even our words.
So, that’s my approach to Yoga. I believe it can be used to give you the tools to understand how to change, to understand what to change, to understand why to change, and finally the practice will support you taking action.
First, we need to explore and accept that our mind state WILL influence our actions. So, we before we take action we need to examine some of our mind processes. This introspection can take a healthy approach filled with curiosity, mindfulness and determination. It doesn’t have to be heavy!
Buddha has some fine ideas, here’s one.
All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become. Buddha
It might be difficult to separate and look at our thoughts, and, it can also be difficult to look at our actions in life. But don’t worry, we just start any way we can! A good place to start is to become introspective and curious about our human life. Being entertained by your way of being is much more useful than becoming obsessed with your perceived flaws!
This process of YOGA then is all about discovering!! One a deeper level it’s not about being flexible, or strong, or putting your foot on your head! It’s not really about making shapes – though we have a physical form to look after and develop. It’s about discovery and awareness.
Starting with the physical body is really useful though. Asana is a great and practical tool to use. Why? We all walk/move around living in a physical body but most of us spend little time truly examining our physicality. Real contentment, real health can only be accessed when we can manage and understand our body and this can only happen when we develop awareness not of just our physical state but our thinking body as well.
So step one is really a two part process, deliberate, mindful physical practice to quiet the body and mental practices to develop insight.
Asana is the tool, meditation is the task.
There are many ways to approach mindful awareness. We can start with what we observe (but often we can’t observe, we just get carried along with our thoughts like a leaf in a river) or another technique is to repeat a deliberate mantra and notice the associated thoughts that arise. Repeating a mantra helps us realise that our attention keeps shifting and we notice that we forget to repeat the word/phrase as we get caught up in thinking.
It usually means we need to repeat the mantra until we can actually focus long enopugh to repeat it! Only then can we actually start to reflect upon what the mantra means to us. Repeating the same mantra for a long, long time (like months or years!) can be a great means to developing deeper insight into how we think and helping us develop our refelective skills. Here are two to get you started, but making up your own is awesome. Just find some statement that you can sit with, something that holds your attention. I am a scientist so I like the cell one. But it doesn’t matter!
I am a universe of cells; I am a cell in a universe.
My thoughts influence my words, my words influence my actions and my actions influence my experience. My experience is my reality.
Asana can be really helpful to use as the position you use while you contemplate. It is like mixing Zen meditation into Yoga asana.
You could try Child’s Pose as your first Asana. Here is a mindful approach you might like to try.
Start with head down, eyes closed – it sets the scene for introspection, leaving the world of interaction with others, and lets you venture into sensing your own physical and mental body.
Yoga practice is an individual practice – we practice in a group for support NOT comparison, child’s pose allows you to become internally focused and begin the concentration required to learn about yourself.
Close the eyes – the dominant human sense is our vision – it connects us with the outside world. Our open eyes are ALWAYS checking for danger and sending a non-stop flow of stimulus to our brain. With closed eyes we can free up brain space and use it to explore and examine our physical body.
Having our bodies dropped on the mat symbolises dropping our attitudes and expectations. We can also drop our tension and muscle contractions and feel the body without using muscular effort.
Hence pose of the child becomes a restorative pose and can be used at any stage in a yoga class to relax, restore and recover.
This is a great position to focus on the breath and observe it travel in and out of the body. The movement of the ribcage can be easily noted along with a beginning understanding of how the abdominal muscles assist in active out breathing. The quality of the breath – its length, depth, speed and smoothness can be felt and the beginning of breath control explored.
Once you have breath awareness and are in your body, start repeating your mantra until you see it! Until you develop a bigger picture of that statement. Find out where it leads you. Let it simmer and develop.
Your mind is a garden and your thoughts are seeds
Are you growing flowers or are you planting weeds.
So the mantra idea is designed to plant seeds of understanding and knowledge. Try it out, give it a go. It’s been used for centuries across multiple continents and cultures. Something that old MUST be worth a go. Then come and train with me! I have lots to offer as a Yoga teacher trainer:)