Friday, March 25, 2011
The other day, the yoga director at one of the studios where I teach approached me and said that the students were looking to "go deeper" in their classes and asked if I could prepare my classes with this in mind. I was excited to offer a deepening experience to the willing and open students. However, when I was planning my next class, I noticed that I was asking myself, "What does going deeper really mean in a yoga practice?" Does it mean more challenging physically, does it mean holding poses longer, does it mean learning new difficult poses that you’ve never done before? These are all great and they definitely contribute to a deeper experience, but they're all just external physical things. To me, deepening is about refinement; it’s about refining your relationship with yourself by really getting to know your body and your mind so that you can experience the greatest awakening through your practice. Think of it as getting to know someone else. At first, you know them on the surface and the more and more time you spend with them, you think oh, I’m really getting to see the real them. But there is always more to learn, always more that can be revealed to you as you create a more intimate relationship with this person. Through a yoga practice, you’re creating a more intimate relationship with yourself. When you know yourself, you relate to yourself in a more sensitive way. Also, when you know yourself, you automatically develop a deeper understanding of all people and you relate to the world in a more sensitive way.
So how do you develop this deeper relationship with yourself? Well, I have a couple of ideas. The first one is super simple. Breathe. Just by following your breath, you create a more intimate relationship with yourself; your mind can follow your breath as your body feels it, you're really paying attention to yourself. When you become more sensitive to your own breath, you realize how it affects you. A single breath can transform tension into ease. A single breath can lasso your attention into the present moment. No matter what pose you are practicing, by paying attention to your breath, you are allowing yourself to have a deeper experience. You are cutting right through all the mind stuff (doubt, irritation, fear) and allowing yourself to really be there. AND, you might find that you can hold the pose longer and challenge yourself more physically (some of those physical things we talked about earlier) when you stay connected to breath. Another way to deepen your practice is to refine your relationship with your body through specific alignment principles. These help you to develop a "sense" of your body being in the optimal position. Even the tiniest shift of the toe can have an effect on your whole pose and your whole experience of the pose. By learning how to line yourself up safely, you not only understand yourself anatomically, but you tap into your deepest strength and find your greatest sense of freedom. AND, when you are lined up, you may find that you can more easily maneuver yourself into some of those new, difficult poses that you've been meaning to try (again, with the physical stuff).
So I invite you to deepen your practice this Spring by getting to know yourself a little better. The process of refinement is a life-long process and every step of the journey can be both challenging and deeply satisfying. Breathe, go into the deep well of yourself and enjoy!
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
It's March. The Equinox is coming up. So, naturally, I am going to talk about television. Huh? I used to watch this '80's TV show about a vigilante secret agent called "The Equalizer". The star of the show tries to atone for past sins by offering his services as a troubleshooter, a protector, and an investigator free of charge. He visits justice upon hoodlums, kidnappers, drug dealers, etc. and therefore can be thought of as bringing some balance to the world. Yoga acts as a much less violent, but just as cool, Equalizer. By practicing yoga, we create balance within ourselves. We balance the energies swirling around in our bodies. Each vortex of swirling energy in our bodies is called a chakra. There are 7 main chakras located along the central axis of the body. The energy in each area is related to physical body parts, physiological processes and psychological characteristics. Oftentimes, the energy gets blocked or flows out of control. The practice of yoga helps to balance it out for health and well-being. The time of the Spring Equinox (around March 20th this year) is an auspicious time to work with balance in our lives because it marks the time of perfect balance between light and dark; day and night are equally long on all parts of the earth on the Spring Equinox. Simply bringing your body into proper physical alignment can help to cultivate energetic balance. Yoga teaches us how to line up and when we align properly, it's like stepping into the flow of an even greater energy that supports and enlivens us. We are renewed, rejuvenated, reborn. It's like Springtime. Jump onto your yoga mat this month for some balancing action and join nature in this time of renewal.