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.
Different people receive different gifts from their practice, but it is definitely worth reflecting and asking - what do you receive?
Over the years I have been teaching and sharing yoga, many people have experienced some form of healing through yoga. Sometimes subtle, sometimes profound, so it is not an easy question to answer, because it is different for many people.
I feel like there is always so much we are going through as human beings. And it can't be avoided if we are living, breathing, interacting, working, raising families, caring for ourselves and others.
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.
So stress itself cannot be completely avoided. You may have ongoing stress that may show up as illnesses, relationship issues and so on. 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.
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. 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 Awangawanga Kore or Freedom from stress.
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, and then let them drop away...we stay with the breath....as we begin to move with awareness of the breath, we are in the present moment, we experience union.
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 the beginning step of meditation.
We can become more resilient to stress, or aware that we have the power to shift our state by ourselves.
From stressed - fight, flight or freeze - to stress free- rest and digest/ stay and play. Like exercising a muscle, when we use it it becomes stronger.
Your slow deep breathing with movement activates your stay and play, rest and digest, side of the nervous system, bringing you into balance, into the moment, allowing your body to heal, and release tension, it brings blood to the centre of the body, the vital organs, and slows the heart beat. 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 your self.
These are some of 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.
Arohanui , Linsey x