Eight years ago, I went through yoga teacher training. During that time, I was practicing yoga like a workout. I knew how to meditate before or after class started because of my training in energy healing, but the class itself was not very spiritual. Classes were all about “chaturangas”…
… and “knee to nose” ab workouts.
To be fair, I was in pretty awesome shape during that time. But life moves on.
Many people spend their entire yoga careers practicing with the goal of being physically fit. But, you can do numerous things to become physically fit. Yoga does more than that. Over the years I’ve learned that yoga is about creating a physically fit mind. The physical aspects of it are just gravy. I’ve come to learn that yoga is important for my sanity. When I do yoga at least three times a week I’m not as cranky. I don’t feel as tense during the day. It’s easier for me to go with the flow.
Now, instead of wanting to feel sore the next day, I want to feel sane the next day. Therefore, instead of pushing myself to the edge while practicing yoga, I’ve become gentler with myself. I no longer see yoga as muscle building. I see yoga as a way to wring out the bad juju I collect walking through my day to day life. I see yoga as a way to reset my mind, reset my emotions, and spiritually connect to divine again.
This has been a huge lesson for me. Because, in order to release the grumpy Heather energy, I need to approach my yoga from a different perspective.
When I first step on my mat, before class has started, I take some time to move my joints around. My body isn’t as forgiving as it used to be. If I can loosen up a bit before class starts, I’m more able to sink into the practice.
Then I take a moment to take some breaths and guide myself into a more centered and grounded state of being. This is the first step in letting the outside world rinse away.
As the teacher guides us through the practice, I focus on my breath more than how well I am doing the pose. This is what I mean by sinking into the practice. I am more in tune with my body than I ever was eight years ago. I’m also kinder to my body. I am aware if something doesn’t feel right and I back away. I don’t let ego push me into doing a pose I know I can do, but it will hurt me in the end.
Then the end of class…sweet sweet svasana. The sacred time when adults just lie on their mats and do nothing. Nothing. It is really quite lovely. As adults we rarely get this state of peace in our life. It is a treasure to have even a few minutes of it. And those few minutes do wonders for healing.
I end my practice seated with prayer hands at my heart and say to myself, “Please give me the intuition and the strength to speak my truth with compassion. Please give me the intuition and the strength to follow my heart.” I touch my thumbs to the corresponding chakras while saying this little prayer.
As my practice goes deeper and deeper into a feeling of overall well-being, I am becoming more and more aware of the truth that yoga is for everyone. Anyone of any shape, size, ability, state of health, financial position…you name it. ANYONE can do yoga. Isn’t that beautiful and wonderful?
I’ve been thinking a lot about how the meditative part of yoga is all in the breath. For example: Inhale as you sweep your arms above your head. Exhale as you bring your palms together and down to your heart. Repeat.
This simple motion, done in sync with the breath, can bring any person into a grounded and centered state. When you are grounded and centered, you are in a meditative state. When you are in a meditative state, you are moving your body from fight or flight to rest and digest mode. You are letting your blood pressure and heart rate lower. When you are in a meditative state, you are allowing your brain to cleanse by slowing down instead of the usual racing as we move through our multitasking life.
Almost anyone can move their arms with their breath. And if you can’t move your arms, just focusing on breathing in and out of the nose is yoga. It’s even got a name: ujjayi breath.
What I’m saying is, you don’t have to be able to get down on the floor to do yoga. You don’t need to be able to balance on one leg to do yoga. And you definitely don’t need to be able to hold a high plank for a minute or more to do yoga. That’s not what yoga is about.
Yoga is about being present in this moment with your breath and your body, whether your body is moving or not and, frankly, whether you are even on a mat or not. Yoga is about releasing life stress and just being in the here and now.
Finally, when you are able to bring yourself into the here and now, it is easier to remember who you are. Not that you are a daughter, or an engineer, or a gardener, or whatever title you have for yourself. No, it’s easier to remember who you REALLY are. The magical stuff that makes you different from all the other daughters and engineers and gardeners. The magical stuff that makes you different from anyone else. The magical stuff that makes you YOU.
So, for those of you out there who are afraid of yoga, or think you aren’t a yoga person, or think you physically could never do yoga – I’m happy to tell you that you are mistaken.
If you want yoga in your life, you can have it. It may look different from other people’s yoga. It may look different from the yoga you see in magazines and on inspirational memes. But here is a little secret: a person needing a walker to move around can be a better yogi than the girl on the cover of the magazine doing the spits while in handstand. It’s the inside of yoga that counts. The yoga invitation is always there. The inner transformation is optional.
If you want to get into yoga but aren’t sure how, just email me. I would love to help you find your path to yoga. It’s there, just waiting for you.
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