01 Feb Yoga – Far Beyond the Physical
Why all of a sudden has yoga become so popular?
I think because for some strange reason yoga is simply not just yoga! When you sign up for yoga you generally end up being brought on some kind of a spiritual journey. You begin to awaken thoughts, emotions and feelings that may have been suppressed or hidden for years. You, in effect end up getting a lot more for your dollar than you may have first expected!
When you begin to fully embrace the practice and really begin to FEEL its transformative effects, not just in body, but in mind and soul – that’s when you know you have started your spiritual journey, that’s when you know you’ve been bitten by the magical yoga bug. That’s my why.
Far beyond the Physical
It’s a total mind-body workout that combines strengthening and stretching poses with deep breathing, meditation and relaxation. Workout fads come and go, but virtually no other exercise program is as enduring as yoga. It’s been around for more than 5,000 years. The word Yoga itself means UNION. The unity of mind with body and body with soul. It’s the practice of connecting all parts of ourselves; the good – the bad, the dark – the light, the love – the anger, the joy – the sorrow, the peace – the pain, the sun – the moon, the yin – the yang, the male – the female, the mind and the body.
In yoga we use the prayer symbol (?) quite often which is very symbolic. It symbolises peace and unity within. It refers to the struggle that we face to try and bring all the splits in our lives and in our personalities back together. We get pulled and dragged in so many opposing directions in today’s society that we sometimes don’t know what’s real or what’s not. All the diversions and distractions of social media, work, emails, traffic etc can pull us so far away from our core, from our centre, from our truth that we end up getting lost or overwhelmed in this frantic fast paced world.
In yoga we come onto the mat to stop. To feel. To get some stillness in a world that is often so chaotic. We get on the mat to re-connect back to ourselves, to centre ourselves and to in effect ground ourselves. When we are off centre our life can become unbalanced. We can end up doing or saying things that aren’t congruent to our true self. We can make decisions that aren’t in alignment with our real self. We can end up living a life that isn’t our own, or isn’t fuelling or fulfilling us.
New to Yoga?
For a newcomer to yoga you might find that explanations like “It increases the flow of prana” or “It brings energy up your spine” fall on deaf or skeptical ears! For some it may be recommended by their physio for rehabilitation, it may part of a sports recovery programme or it may just be for the physical benefits that yoga gives which are many. But to truly understand yoga and reap its overall benefits is to engage the connection between mind and body. To not only release tightness and tensions from the muscles but also from our mind, our emotions and our thoughts.
Asanas, Pranayama and Nidra
Physically yoga helps to increase flexibility, stability and mobility as well as providing strength and stamina. It does so through the postures (asanas), mentally through the breath work (pranayama) and emotionally through relaxation and meditation (yoga nidra). It mobilises and loosens out the body and it creates space in the joints where we may once have felt stuck. It increases muscle tone, engages the abdominals and creates strength in the core.
Yoga postures (asana) or yoga flow sequences like your standard sun salutation are excellent ways to mobilise and stretch the body – a moving meditation as such. Simple Yoga flows can incorporate postures like planks, Downward dogs, warrior poses, high and low lunges, twist lunges, abdominal twists, reverse twists, cobra pose, and some backbends like camel and bow pose to open up the heart space and release old pent up emotions.
Some of the yoga poses will have you twisted up like a knot and holding on as hard as you can not to fall over. When you unwind, you’ll find that it’s not just your body that feels untangled, but your mind and spirit as well. The asanas have wonderful holistic benefits by stimulating the immune system, encouraging balance, and aligning the chakras. Some balancing postures like eagle pose and tree pose encourage stability and balance in our lives. During these poses we need to physically concentrate on one point of focus – which we call our dristi. But we also need to find balance on another level, too. While you are standing steady in the pose, you are also balancing the two sides of your body by practicing equally on both legs. The body is said to hold masculine energy on the right side and feminine energy on the left. If one of these sides is out of balance, you may find yourself feeling overly sensitive (feminine) or overly aggressive (masculine). Squeezing the two sides together, and then unwinding them, encourages a calming, harmonious effect that brings balance.
A big part of yoga involves deep breathing, breath work (pranayama) and meditation and relaxation (yoga nidra). At the end of class during shavasana you are invited to come to a place of stillness through guided meditation and relaxation. It is during this time that any pent up emotions that may have been released during the class can bubble up to the surface and come into your awareness. A great time to gain insights and clarity.
Yoga and Emotions
Emotionally yoga teaches us how to be loving and compassionate toward ourselves. because human beings have self-defeating and self-limiting tendencies. Practicing yoga brings the content of our beings to the surface so we can see it. Inside the muscles, we hold the memories of every emotion we’ve ever experienced: sadness, fear, anger, love etc. Through the asanas, we can tap into these memories and process our pasts. It’s the asanas that release the emotions out of the body.
One of the many things I love about yoga is that you can literally take it anywhere. You can jump into a yoga flow at anytime in any place. I find it a great way to unwind, destress and untangle all those gazillion million trillion thoughts that can clutter your mind field. It gives you the time and space to cultivate some self care, compassion, acceptance, gratitude and peace.
Be still like a river, and feel the flowing depth of your internal world. It’s sings, it cries and it longs to be heard.
Practice and Patience
It’s a slow process to correct alignment and remain strong and balanced yet calm and graceful all at the same time. Just like in life, we have to learn to accept where we are, and know that every journey begins with one single step, and it’s in the learning along the way that creates the richer exploration. Remember nothing changes over night but with constant practice and patience – slowly but surely we begin to release the old and welcome the new. We begin to find ourselves again, and come back to living our truth and living a life of patience, acceptance and gratitude.
I hope 2017 is a year of new beginnings and new adventures. If yoga is a new concept to you I hope you can embrace it with an openness and a willingness and enjoy the journey it takes you on.
In love, light and blessings,
Yoga instructor, Wellness coach and Healing practitioner