Diving deeper into the yogic philosophy, I’m officially drinking the Kool-Aid. 🙂 It’s funny because the deeper my knowledge of yoga, the more I find there is to explore. Very similar to teaching mindfulness in Des Moines; there comes this deep-rooted sense of respect and reverence to this way of being, which feels like a huge responsibility in making sure I’m “doing it right” sharing it with others. The last couple months confirmed the fact that I’ve only experienced the tip of the iceberg in this 5000-year-old practice. A few things I’m exploring:
Mudras – Are gestures of the hands mostly, holding them in certain postures for healing and transformation. Mudra is Sanskrit for “gesture” – “to bring forth delight or pleasure.” Used in Indian culture for more than 2000 years, it’s also found in many religions, as well as our cultures in general (think hands in prayer, thumbs up, the “OK” gesture, clenching our fists when were angry, placing a hand to our heart when we’re touched by something, etc).
I’m beginning to see this from a neurological/psychological perspective more than anything right now. It’s VERY subtle, but when I practice mudra in meditation, I feel more serene, grounded and at peace. It gives me something from both an extero and interoceptive perspective to focus my thoughts on at first – the touch points at the fingertips and vibration of the hands, for instance. I’ve also been using them in acute situations, like before public speaking, which is a giant irrational fear of mine. It’s actually been very beneficial in keeping my anxiety at bay.
Eight Limbs of Yoga – Based in Patanjali’s Sutras – founder of yoga. This is one that I’m most interested in exploring — Yoga isn’t just breathing techniques (pranayama) and postures (asanas), which many of the classes I’ve attended focus solely on. The classes that really made an impression on me over the last few years (and have also evoked emotions of joy, compassion, and deep interconnectedness) have been the ones that focus more on the spiritual side of the practice, not just strengthening and stretching. The first four: (Notice how the first two, which are cornerstones to the practice, have nothing to do with bending yourself into a pretzel, touching your toes, or doing a headstand.)
Yama – Cultivating moral and ethics necessary to be a good person and how to relate to others…things like not stealing, non-violence, living within moderation.
Niyama – How we relate to self – How to live a deliberate, authentic life…cultivating contentment and surrendering to life as it is, not how you think it should be.
Asana – “Asan” literally means “seat” – as in taking a seat, literally, into any posture – finding union of the body, mind, heart and breath. Asanas are physical postures that reflect the true nature of being.
Pranayama – “Prana” means “life force energy” and “Ayama” means “to extend or draw out” …to manufacture a certain awareness of breathing, to control this life force of the breath, which is a cornerstone and essential to yoga.
“Yoga is the process of removing tension and underlying thought patterns that sustain them in order to reveal our true nature.”
– Joseph Le Page, founder of Integrative Yoga Therapy
Continuing a Daily Home Practice – I made it 44 days in a row practicing something every day, whether it was 7 minutes, or 60. This was GIANT feat for me as I struggle with a daily practice. Sometimes it was a sequence of poses that made sense and “flowed” together but the experiences that resonated most was when I lead from the inside out, from moment to moment, following the breath and body sensations. It probably didn’t look that pretty from the outside, but it was enough…and reminds me that I am enough.
The first day I let go by without practicing, I felt guilty. The same thoughts and emotions arose as when the rare moment I forget to brush or floss my teeth, a necessary, daily thing for me. Yoga is like “mental floss” and physical hygiene – when done daily, feels amazing…when I fall off, feels not to great.
The more I practice, the more sensitive I become to my own needs of self-care, and needs of others – I’m more attuned to others’ emotions, non-verbal cues, energy in general. Very similar to learning to play a musical instrument. I’ve noticed that I feel positive and negative emotions more fully, like my spectrum widens in depth and breadth, directly proportionate to how much I’m on the mat or cushion in formal practice. It’s cool with the pleasant stuff, the unpleasant, well, that’s another story…I’m not so sure what I think about being re-sensitized with the crappy stuff. 😊
Thanks for following me on this journey of self-exploration. Contact me – I’d love to hear from you. Namaste.