Yoga has been practiced for hundreds of thousands of years. Many have practiced it along their search for Nirvana as a tool to reach eternal bliss. Others have practiced it for the physical benefits it gives them, making them fit and flexible. Others, for the relaxing effects it has upon the mind and body. Yoga is practiced as a means to prepare the body for meditation, and also practiced as a means to learn better connection to the breath and body.
I practice Yoga myself, for many different reasons. When I was first introduced to the practice, I must admit that it was purely physical… But soon, I began to tune into my breath. Yoga became a means to relax, and to learn about myself. I would practice Yoga without thinking of it as a workout. I did this for a few years, and began to feel the true and pure Divine connection that doing Yoga blessed me with. Yoga became a devotion. It became a faithful practice to myself and to the Cosmic energy that surrounds all of us. Why? Because I felt it in the depths of my every bone and cellular structure through each pose, asana and movement. Each time I was frustrated, I learned new ways to continue on… to breathe and to re-focus. Every time I was uncomfortable, I was taught more and more how sensation isn’t good or bad, it is just sensation.
I wanted to share with you some very important lessons Yoga taught me, particularly about and through my body.
- I have a whole lot of tension. Everywhere.
Now, this realization isn’t daunting. It isn’t fear invoking, or upsetting. At one point of my life, I may have felt the tension in my body and known it would take some serious work to release all of it, and been intimidated by the task. After really sinking into a daily practice of attempting to release tension I’ve learned that it isn’t as intense as I thought it may have been. Yes, stretching my hips makes me cry, and brings up deep-rooted emotions that have lodged their way into my being. YES, this happens! And maybe it is overwhelming while it’s happening, but that doesn’t mean that I will not stay in a pose as long as I can. I feel its healing benefits. I’ve gotten so in tune with my body, through my yoga, that when I stretch a part of myself or massage a part of myself I can feel exactly where the tension related to this physical issue is stored. For example, yesterday when stretching my hips I felt the tension and overwhelming emotions come up within my Yoni, or genital space. This is often a spot that carries some of the most deep seated emotion. It’s scary! It’s so so so scary, but the feeling when your hips sink a little bit deeper just because you took some deep breaths and relaxed the body, invited the emotions… it’s pretty amazing. So the beauty of yoga is that it has helped me tune into this tension, and invite it. Surrender to it! It’s scary but your body will THANK you! Your hips may be sore after, and you may want to cry, but by doing this you are creating new patterns in your body. You are re-learning what it is like to truly feel the things you shoved down. You are learning yourself. It is a powerful, liberating feeling, to realize that you have the power to heal yourself. Tension is just the body’s way of speaking to you. I learned how to listen to that.
2) My body is a lot stronger and smarter than I think.
I’ve done this thing, far too many times, where I say “No my hips are tight, I can’t do that pose.” Well, with that mentality then YEAH! Obviously I can’t do it. Your brain is SUCH a strong tool. If you think you can’t do something or that it will be hard and you get scared/worried, your brain sends signals to your body to be on alert! They say, “oh, you’re nervous. Something must be going on.” And then bam, your body is on alert mode and you’re wondering why you can’t do the pose perfectly, and then you get frustrated by yourself and your body and the pose gets even harder… See the cycle? Acknowledging how incredibly strong your body is, is KEY. Just recognizing that on a day to day, knowing that you are healthy and strong, even if you don’t feel like it. There will be days where you are tired or your body is more sore. That is okay, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t strong. Everything needs rest and recuperation. So, what I’ve learned within my body from Yoga is that it is SO much more capable than I could have ever dreamt possible. There was a time where I couldn’t do a headstand. The thought alone would intimidate me. But now, I can’t even attach to that feeling because I love head-standing. Why limit yourself by telling yourself you can’t do something? Try it! With childlike enthusiasm. A child does not try to run thinking they will not run fast or far enough, they just run. Be like that. You will learn so much about what your body is capable of. Find joy in the surprises of it all.
3) Resting is productive.
I’ve been very caught up in the need to be as productive as possible the past few years of my life. I have been so consumed by this, that I had begun to think of gentle yoga flows, not as physically taxing, as not as productive. That I wasn’t growing my asana practice enough just holding a child’s pose for 20 minutes. But why? Allowing the central nervous system to back away and bringing in the peripheral nervous system, the total calmness associated with that, the relaxing of the adrenals and organs, the legitimate healing of the body… wow, it is so healing. And because of how healing it is, it is VERY productive. Think of a day where you felt like you had a million things to do. You were probably overwhelmed. You probably tried to get it all done, quickly, maybe you even tried to multitask. Now, in this moment, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Take as many minutes as you need to do this. Focus on just relaxing every part of your body.
When you’re finished that, you’ll notice a newfound mental clarity and centred energy as opposed to it being so scattered, everywhere! Doing this, in a yoga practice, can help us gain that mental clarity. It can take us away from feeling like there is so much going on around us, to feeling calm and focused on one thing at a time. Relaxation is so important. Yoga has taught me, through tuning into my body and listening to it, that slowing down is something my body craves. And if I chose not to listen to my body when it needs that, that’s why I find myself sick or exhausted. The body’s way of saying, “you didn’t listen to me, I’m going to force you to listen to me now.”
4) Moving feels REALLY good.
Our bodies are designed to move! Just look at the way they are anatomically built. The endorphins released chemically in the brain through exercise and meditation are amazing on their own. After a yoga practice, all the yogi’s speak of this “yoga high.” I myself, can attest to it. It’s a totally blissed out feeling. It comes from acknowledgment. You can focus on the fact that a practice was difficult and that you had a hard time with some positions, or you can remember that your body is SO much more open than it was before the class. You stretched out tension, both physical and emotional, and strengthened the body! You even strengthened the mind, staying in poses you wanted to get out of, testing your mental strength and endurance. You ROCKED it! And that in itself feels great!
I love moving. I love how it feels to stretch and open and dance. It feels good, especially approaching it with a childlike innocence full of surprise and excitement like I previously brought up. It feels good to breathe DEEPLY and to tune in. You notice in these times truly how nice it feels to breathe. Moving is so important. It uplifts our mood, helps us focus, and helps us learn about ourselves. I challenge you to move a little today, even if it’s just a 5 minute forward fold with a pillow under your belly to support you! Try it!
Yoga has taught me hundreds of important lessons about myself. It has helped me grow in ways that I can not fully articulate in words. These are solely 4 important lessons that I was called to share with you today, and not necessarily the most important 4 or the only important 4. I hope that you take what resonates with you, and begin to tune in to your own body to see what your physical practice has taught you! Learn about yourself in this way, searching. What has body-building taught you? What has running taught you? About your body, specifically. Has it showed you that you are powerful and capable of so much more than you think? Focus on that. Harness these important lessons not just in the physical activity that you do, but in your day to day lives. You are taught so much by your body each and every single day. The task now is to tune in and to really see what it’s saying!
Namaste friends, happy exploring.