Life is so filled with distractions (iPads, iPods and iPhones…oh my!), mind chatter and things to ruminate about. Yoga, meaning “to yoke” or “unite” mind and body, stretches us, inspires us to move beyond our regular boundaries, and brings us a deeper awareness of our mind-body connection. It gives us a practice that not only stretches, strengthens, and calms the body, but also stretches, strengthens, and quiets the mind. When we attach the breath to the poses of yoga the practice itself becomes a moving meditation.
“When we attach the breath to the poses of yoga the practice itself becomes a moving meditation.”
If you are just starting with a practice of yoga, you already know the undeniable peace in your body after a great practice. If you have had a consistent practice for a while, then you have dedicated yourself to a path of personal growth and well-being.
You don’t need to do an hour of yoga to receive the benefits. I always recommend small, consistent steps. Several years ago, I organized a “21 day yoga challenge” with many of my students. Those who practiced a daily habit of the sun salutations had reported the benefits they quickly experienced just by this short 10 minute practice. I can honestly say, when someone starts a regular practice the sun salutations I can see a huge jump in their ability in class; their flexibility, their strength and stamina. It’s wonderful to come to class once in awhile, but if you really want to see the benefits of the practice, start with a daily practice of the sun salutations and experience the benefits on a deeper level.
Each time you step on your mat and with the very first conscious breath, you make a decision to work towards the highest expression of yourself. Your yoga practice gives you the opportunity to let go of your distractions or, as written in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, “the fluctuations of the mind.”
“Each time you step on your mat and with the very first conscious breath, you make a decision to work towards the highest expression of yourself.”
According to Patanjali, it’s not the thoughts and feelings but it’s the identification or attachment with thoughts and feelings that causes suffering. So, if you can put a little bit of space between you and your thoughts, you and your feelings, you and your judgements, then you can start to experience the “peace that passes all understanding.” (That one is from Philippians 4:7…not Patanjali).
Yoga is all about creating this space or “stillness.” It creates stillness between the sense of the Self and our thoughts, feelings and judgements. Such as; I’m “happy,” “sad,” “stupid,” “brilliant,” “fat,” “perfect.” Fill in your own fluctuation here _______. (Not a big enough space? Congratulations, you’re human.). Each time we bring our attention back to the breath or the pose we are doing, we create that space or stillness by the simple act of being aware.
With regular practice, we start to notice the ability to be aware spilling over to other areas of our lives; creating greater flexibility (in mind and body) and a lighter sense of being. If we can make it a habit to find that peace/stillness/space within, we will better be able to handle life’s difficulties. Our difficulties may still be there, but we will be able to handle them with a clear and calm mind and a lot less stress on the body.