Every time you step onto your yoga mat, you begin a journey. A journey that takes you from one place to another, from the external to the internal, from disconnection to connection. A journey that takes you home to yourself…
Have you ever noticed you’re not the same person when you step off your mat as when you stepped on it? That shift or transformation in mood, physical release or mental relaxation is a unique aspect of Yoga and probably the reason why most people keep coming back to the practice time and time again.
Our culture is one that nurtures disconnection rather than connection. We’re rarely able to listen to the subtle callings of our bodies, choosing instead to disregard all the ways it communicates with us through sensation. Then we’re surprised when we end up feeling depleted, sick or injured.
How we breathe -its rhythm, depth and length- is a perfect indication of how we are feeling physically, mentally and emotionally, yet we have lost the ability to tap into this wisdom. We no longer listen to our gut instinct, instead we second guess and doubt ourselves at every turn, and ironically technology -which aims to connect us all- has now left us more isolated and distant from one another than ever before.
One of the ways Yoga can help us become better connected, is by committing to step onto our mat everyday to begin a process of observation between movement and breath. The breath acts as a bridge between the mind and the body, so by keeping an even, steady flow of breath, you’ll maintain the mind and body in the same alignment. If your breath becomes disjointed, then like in a perfect chain reaction, so will your movement. Once this happens, it’s easy to lose concentration, become distracted or react to sensations and sensory stimulants that cross your path while on the mat.
In a society that reveres multi-tasking (fragmentation of the mind), this is an ambitious challenge. Yoga wants you to keep your attention one-pointed (ekâgratâ), so the mind is whole and unified and you’re able to finish a task before beginning another.
As the Dalai Lama says:
“Thoughts are scattered and dispersed, so you gather them together to strengthen the mind and make it virtuous”.
In order to begin to harness this virtuous mind, choose a simple sequence that allows your body to move fluidly and repeat it several times until it becomes familiar to you. Allow the body to move with ease without creating unnecessary tightness or tension. When the body moves with less effort, then then the mind is able to flow into a more meditative state where the synergy between breath and movement creates an internal harmony. This is the yoking or the unity that Yoga challenges us to find in our practice.
This process is summed up perfectly by American yoga teacher veteran Judith Hanson Lasater:
“a lot of asana practice is just getting out of your own way”.
Sometimes our mind can create a problem where there doesn’t need to be one, and our bodies respond by tensing, tightening and pushing ourselves into poses we’re not ready to attempt, losing the connection to our breath along the way.
The more you “get out of your own way”, the more you experience this “flow” on the mat, and then the more you’ll be inspired to take that feeling off the mat and into the world, applying this sense of ease and equanimity to your everyday life experiences whether it be at work, home or in personal relationships.
As your central nervous system gets used to experiencing more tranquility, ease, stability and harmony in your practice, you’ll naturally want to seek out this sense of quiet bliss in other aspects of your life. As you connect more with your Self, you’ll connect more with other beings, nature and the planet around you. You’ll develop a sensitivity that creates a desire to protect and nurture this precious place we call earth and all that reside within it. Your choices become paramount not only to you but to others as you think before you consume, aligning your values to those you consider support the wellness of the planet and the common good of all its inhabitants and not its destruction.
Blaise Pascal, a French mathematician, physicist and philosopher once said:
“All of humanities problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone”.
When you are able to turn your attention inward, where calm, peace and tranquility naturally reside, you’re able to take solace in a newfound sense of freedom and joy. When you meditate with peace in your heart, you create the space and clarity necessary to be able to listen to the messages that come from within.