At its core, yoga is a listening practice. You breathe, but not the way you breathe all day, you breathe with awareness and intention. Your intention is to use your breath as a means of becoming present because your inhales and exhales are always happening right now; if you’re aware that you’re breathing, you’re also engaged with the present moment. You’re breathing deeply, which draws your attention away from the cacophony of endless thoughts, and into that realm of feeling and intuition. When you breathe deeply, you calm your nervous system, and create a foundation of steadiness and ease.
When you move on your mat, you do that consciously and with intention, as well. Hopefully the intention is to nurture and strengthen yourself, physically, mentally and emotionally. This means your practice will look and feel different on different days, and even if you practiced twice on the same day. It’s never the same Warrior I, because you are never the same warrior.
When you enter a pose, hopefully you do that with deep breath, and curiosity, and not attachment to the outcome, or the way the pose looks. The pose is just a tool, your process is the thing. You want to find that exact right spot, where it isn’t too much, and certainly isn’t painful, but where you’re feeling some nice sensation, and exploring it. You’re inviting your body to relax because you’re listening to it and working in partnership with it. So many of us do not have that respectful and compassionate relationship with our bodies. I’ve worked with countless people over the years who are at war within themselves, treating the body as a possession, or something to be feared, overcome, or controlled. I used to be one of those people. When you start to listen to your body, it will offer you all kinds of wisdom about who you are, how you feel, what you need in any given moment to feel safe, what lights you up, shuts you down, scares you or inspires you. When you treat your body with kindness, you ignite a conversation between your body and your mind that’s essential to your own well-being.
Whatever your tendencies are, they follow you onto your mat. If you’re hard on yourself in life, you’ll be hard on yourself on your mat, but you don’t have to accept that as the way you are. You could look at that, examine whether that mindset is hurting you or helping you as you move through the world, and feed that tendency or erode it. I used to think if I wasn’t hard on myself, I’d get less done, but I have found the reverse to be true. When I’m forgiving with myself, I relax and open. I rest when I need to, and then when it’s time to work, I have that much more to offer up, because I’ve filled my tank.
When you learn to work with your body, you grow in self-trust. If your body says, “That’s enough, that’s the right spot!” and your personality says, “Too bad, we’re going all the way!”, your body is going to tense up and hold on. You are failing to respect your own boundaries, and that creates a state of fear. If you have problems setting boundaries in life, or respecting your own or other people’s, this is something you can develop on your mat, as you practice. You can respect the signal to back off when your hamstring needs you to back off, and eventually, you’ll respect other signals your body sends you. If you have a pattern of letting people take advantage of you, that’s on you, not everyone else.
There’s no trusting yourself without self-respect; the two go hand-in-hand. For me, thinking about these things was not enough. In order to rewire my system, I had to be in my body, moving and breathing, while dealing with my mind. Shifting a way of being isn’t easy, especially if it’s ingrained, but it isn’t impossible, either. You just have to start. Ready?
Sending you love,