Movement for the body & mind
Yesterday I was reminded of the value in moving your body and stimulating your senses in new and varied ways.
As I am between strength programs this week and focusing on body weight work; I took the opportunity to attend 2 yoga classes. Having not regularly practiced yoga for several years I found it fascinating to observe the changes in my own body and crucially, my own mind.
In yoga practice, the idea of “perfect poses” and that you need to look like a yogi is not at all relevant.
From a physical (and emotional) perspective we all have varying levels of competency, strength and flexibility; yoga looks to observe what is occurring in our bodies and minds through various poses without judgement. Using gravity, the breath and time to ease yourself further into poses as opposed to force and will.
Essentially the opposite of strength training.
During yesterday’s class there were poses centred around the hip/hip flexor area where I observed acute tightness and what many in the fitness industry may call weakness. In yoga however, I am enough, just as I am.
The practice of yoga from what I have put together and learnt over the years is that it is far less about the body than it is about the mind and I have 2 ways to explain this to you.
1. Re-training of neurological pathways when faced with what can be perceived as discomfort in poses through the above method of breath, time and gravity. Observing how a pose feels and not allowing that label to stick in a sense; without force, looking for a new level within the movement. When you next come back to this pose, the change is immediate.
2. Many people I have spoken to, including myself (yes I chat to myself), find yoga emotionally confronting. The focus on breathing, a still mind, the quiet room etc etc… Being alone with your thoughts is confronting and being part of a modern world does not at all set us up for such an experience. Additionally the physicality of the practice stimulates our nervous system and pockets all over our bodies that have known links to processes like digestion and fertility. So picture this… You work 45+ hours per week, you rush around ticking items off your “to-do” list, attempt to have a social life and when you get to yoga class you think this will be good way for you to relax. Although true, what also happens is that you are unprepared for the incredible stimulation that your body feels through the practice. This can be overwhelming and when combined with a quiet room and your own thoughts; feelings of confrontation can occur (go with it…)
There were parts of yesterday’s class where I felt very capable and along with my strength background, I found myself wanting to push through some movements whether for ego or out of habit I am not sure – perhaps a combination of the two?! As I observed this instinct within me I breathed a little more deeply and relaxed into being; all without force. I was however fortunate enough to be adjusted (softly assisted) by a wonderful teacher into some poses which further allowed my own progression. Wheel is a back-bend pose which I had progressed to from my yoga practice some years ago and with the adjustment I received, yesterday I found a new level within the pose. With my heart open to the world and all of my nerves firing, I felt absolute joy.
The final pose in most yoga practice that I have experienced is heavenly. Shavasana; or corpse pose; is your warm and stimulated body sinking heavily into the earth below. Lying flat on your back, arms by your side with palms facing up and eyes closed. After the incredible experience of the class yesterday, especially the progress with my wheel pose, tears ran down my face during Shavasana. Initially shocked, I quickly let this go and within a few moments I felt even more at peace. Stirred up in my mind during the class was so much about life as a journey, the universe and my own self-worth.
Lying in that final pose I truly felt; enough.
Is this post advocating you practice yoga on a daily basis? Not at all. It is however encouraging you; through my own journey; to try something different for the body and mind.
Perhaps that is yoga and if you have tried and struggled with it in the past, let this piece assist you to try once more knowing that the confrontation is part of your journey and that it is perfectly OK.
From a peaceful and joyous place….