Yoga is about creating change, whether the change is in your body, how you view the world, your connection to those around you or your relationship to yourself. We all have our reasons why we do yoga postures or asana, maybe it is to look better, feel healthier or heal pain. When we take up yoga we usually enter it through our body. As we progress we may discover that there is a lot more to this practice and our body is just the doorway.
Here are some key concepts to keep in mind to keep your practice effective and fresh for you.
It is not about control.
I see a lot of my students ‘determined’ to wedge their way into the perfect version of the pose especially when they can’t. It’s as if they have been given a challenge and not meeting it is seen as failure. If you are pushing, struggling or your breathing has gone off kilter that means you are not feeling. If you are not feeling, if you are not aware of where you are in time and space, then you are not doing yoga. You are trying to prove something to someone else. Who is that person?
Playing the edge.
When you work your way into a pose go to your edge slowly. Your edge is where you have hit the spot that if you go any further something will blow. Some of us don’t even try to get there we are all jelly and fear. Some of us go beyond the edge. Instead try entering the pose, waiting for your body to open, moving when your body says to and nourishing relaxation and ease into the pose.
What is your body doing?
Do you know where your spine, head or pelvis is in relation to your pose? What about the parts of you that are stuck, namely the larger joints like hips, shoulders and knees? Instead of working from the skin and bone try to work from the inside out. Get your spine in alignment, feel where your internal organs support the pose, move your external joints in relation to your spine and then expand outwards. Work at creating a global awareness of your body.
Your body doesn’t lie to you, but your mind will. Try to use your body as a barometer of your mind as opposed to the opposite. If you are tired, allow yourself to be that. If you are energetic do something more flowing. Try to see your practice as a lot of what you need, not a lot of what you want. Harness your mind to work for your body. Your body is the servant of the mind, it will act on the mind’s commands. Be sympathetic to your body’s needs.
It’s not a workout.
Please dear students, I know it feels good, I hear you talk about calories burnt, I hear you say it’s a good workout, it keeps me fit and it was lovely to stretch. Yoga can be strenuous, it can keep you fit and slim, it can do all that but please don’t make this the intention of your practice unless you want to stay trapped in the body for the rest of your life. There is so much more to yoga, be willing to explore those avenues with an open mind. Allowing yoga to be part of your life will encourage your body to be in the best shape it can be for you anyway so why not enjoy the ride?
Practice for today: Whatever your heart’s desire is in this one sweet life it will come to you with a diligent, open and intelligent practice. What avenues of your practice can you explore when you next land on your mat?