I have often been asked what do I receive from my yoga practice? It's a great question because it reminds me of the reasons why I practice, and teach, so that others can also receive the gifts yoga has to offer. But the question of what are the gifts you receive can actually be a bit different from your why.
Your WHY might be to stay healthy, to have more energy, to be better able to serve those you love, to gain happiness, to become flexible etc. So yes we can receive those things from our practice, but they are not the only gifts. They maybe the initial reasons you were drawn to yoga, but a 'gift' is so much more than a result.
Different people receive different gifts from their practice, but it is definitely worth reflecting and asking - what gifts do you receive?
Over the years I have been teaching and sharing yoga, many people feel they have experienced some form of healing or release through yoga. Sometimes subtle, sometimes profound, so it is not an easy question to answer, because it is different for each person. You could be mentally feeling freer, or getting out of pain to do with muscle tension or strengthening, or it could be something that really rocks your world and is a game changer for you...but there is no one size fits all in yoga, and we have to actually do it to receive anything back.
Do the mahi, get the treats!
I feel like there is always so much we are going through as human beings. Life can be hard, we all go through the 'stuff'. The reality is that life is bitter-sweet, it can be both incredibly beautiful and incredibly painful at times.
We have had things happen to us throughout life, positive experiences and negative experiences, some that helped us to grow, some that caused us a lot of pain, suffering and grief, or bought us joy and bliss.
So stress itself cannot be completely avoided. Stress can effect every aspect of our lives internally and externally. It actually takes a lot of strength and energy to survive, let alone thrive. We need to have tools to help us to deal with the stress, and yoga offers us many tools.
....Each day or week when we arrive on our mat, really we are arriving at much more than a rubber rectangle on the floor. We are arriving home to our bodies, to our breath and our essence. We are letting go of the expectations of who we are, what we should be doing, we are arriving home to ourselves.
I really think this is a gift, and definitely has been for me.
With the awareness taken to the breath, you are in the current moment and cannot actually be anywhere else. By staying with the breath, we stay in the moment, and worries or expectations, tomorrows problems, yesterdays mistakes or hurts, slip away into the abyss.
When this happens yoga is not an action, it is a state. Or the beginning of that state ( kind of like phase one ) It is the state into which we arrive, or uncover ( because it's actually always there )
Yoga - the action or practice - is the vehicle which takes us to Yoga - Union - the state.
Union of mind, body, breath, we are in oneness, and so we achieve āwangawanga kore or Freedom from stress. ( āwangawanga means stress , kore -zero, nothing )
It's not always easy or possible to arrive here, in this moment. We have our senses operating all the time which can distract us ; sight -we notice dust bunnies under the bed in downward dog, sound- cars outside on their way to work, touch- the mat feels sticky today, its too hot, too cold on our skin, the stomach is rumbling, there is hunger, then smell comes in... someone is making delicious toast in the kitchen! ... taste...I can remember what that toast taste likes!
Aue! The list goes on and on - which is where a thing called Pratyahara (one of the eight limbs of yoga) comes in - it means 'withdrawal of the senses'.
This is where we come back to the breath - close our eyes, feel inside, and then let it go.
We know that we are hearing sounds, but we let go of analysing them. The cars on their way to work or whatever the sound is- are just like waves, going in and out of the awareness. We feel the heat or cold on the skin, or the stickiness of our matter, whatever it is - and allow it too, same with the smell of toast, the taste in our mouths and any colours we may see behind the closed eyes.
... and we allow ourselves to feel all the sens-ations, move into them deeper and deeper, and to move the awareness inside the body (interoception) and to eventually go beyond this. Beyond this is where the really juicy gifts lie...beyond this is a presonal experience that ultimately is like arriving home. Beyond this is the state of Yoga/Union and the true goal of yoga. But then we also do come out again....
All the things are still there, and will be when the practice is over, yoga does not take away the problems of life, or the joy either, but in this moment, life exists in its purest form .... that form is YOU.....
With this practice we can become more aware of what is beyond our senses, so it is no wonder that Pratyahara is one of the eight limbs of yoga.
When we have begun to experience this in yoga we can become more resilient and aware that we have the power to shift our state by ourselves.
We are able to turn inward and create some freedom for ourselves in life.
Your slow deep breathing activates the stay and play, rest and digest, side of the nervous system, bringing you into balance, into the moment, allowing your body to restore, and release tension.
It brings blood to the centre of the body, the vital organs, and slows the heartbeat. It alleviates stress and helps you to build resilience to deal with future stress. It empowers you because you know you have a tool in your kete that you can use to help yourself.
These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the gifts of a mindful yoga practice. It also has many other positive mental and physical effects.... some of which we will explore in future posts.
If you would like to practice mindful yoga with me I have developed a programme that enables you to practice yoga at home with me, and to begin to receive some of the gifts of mindful yoga, you can get Aroha Nui Yoga for Calm here or sign up for one of my courses, and do please add yourself to the email newsletter list, so that you can hear about up coming retreats, workshops and more. ( Sign the form at the base of on the home page to be added)
Please also connect with me on social media- you can join Aroha Nui Yoga Facebook group here
Arohanui , Linsey x