#yogaeverydamnday - Have you seen this hashtag before?? I have, many, many times, and at first I was a cheerleader for it. I mean, really, what could be better than practicing yoga every single day? Well, many things. For one, this hashtag insinuates, at least to me, that you have to get onto your yoga mat everyday or you just aren't doing things right. I feel like expecting yourself or anyone else to hold a physical practice everyday is setting yourself up for unfulfilled expectations. Also, that level of expectation is the kind of unnecessary pressure that doesn't need to be associated with a yoga practice. Two, why does yoga have to be practiced only a mat? And, again, remember this is how I interpret this hashtag. Yoga, at least a majority of it, has little to do with just the physical practice we see portrayed on Instagram. Yoga is about the mind; how to calm it, how to deal with our incessant thoughts, and how to free ourselves from the chains of being "human." As far as I am concerned yoga can be as simple as taking a deep breath while you are stuck in traffic. Yoga can be taking a moment in the heat of an argument to think before you react. It can also be a nice big stretch you take after sitting for hours. It simply needs to be what you need it to be, at the time that you need it, and not anything else, because we certainly don't need that added pressure in out lives. So how about, instead of #yogaeverydamnday, we try for #yogawhenyouneeditandintheformyouneeditin?
I was sitting with a couple of friends' this week and we got into a fairly deep discussion about boundaries. One of these friend's had recently set a boundary to someone close to her and it was not received well. It then led us to discuss our boundaries: why we set them, how others react to them, and what those boundaries mean to us. Protection. Protection of ourselves, our energy, our time, and even our sanity is why we all need boundaries. Boundaries are hard, and often if they aren't set in the onset of a situation or a relationship they can become extremely difficult to implement. And when they are set they are usually not received well by the person or situation that we are trying it keep within a certain place. I think it's something to contemplate, something we need to stop and access once in a while. And if you find yourself in a position where your boundaries are not being received well, just remember what you are protecting. You are protecting yourself and that is your greatest asset.
I spent some time away recently, and it has been 3 years since I was able to take time like that and really relax. It is usually not until we step away from our regular schedule that we really see how important is to take time to recharge, or to even realize how desperately we needed that time. I like to use time like this to focus on my life, my goals, and what I want for the future, always fine tuning. And it was during this time that I came to an understanding or a conclusion, I guess. There are times, in moments like this, that we need to not just access the positive in our lives, but we need to spend time looking at the negative, our shadow side, or the dark. There is so much out in the world about good vibes and positive energy, and, believe me, I am all about the positive and good, don't get me wrong, but what about the other side? The dark side that we all have. The shadowed parts of ourselves, and the negative space we can all find ourselves in. I think it's just as important for us to spend time in these spaces as well, taking time to dwell there, and then learning to accept those things about ourselves. If we can't take a moment in the dark, how can we ever make those things light? How can we ever appreciate that light if we don't stand in the dark? Accepting yourself is accepting all parts of yourself, and I really believe there is such beauty and true wholeness in that. Be easy on all of yourself, and if you can do that, maybe we can be easier on each other.
A short, less than 5 minute, video guiding you through a breathing technique called the 1:2 Breath. This technique elongates the exhale of our breath to double the length of the inhale. When this happens we slow the heart rate and activate our parasympathetic nervous system, which is our rest and digest state. This allows our bodies to destress and our minds too refocus.
I have found myself overthinking lately, well, this is actually an overly common cycle I find myself in. Our thoughts, they take over, often times creating situations that don't exist and taking our nervous system along for a ride believing that the situation is actually real. My overthinking got so bad the other day that I actually said to me myself, out loud, "Stop! Just stop!" Do you ever find yourself doing the same thing? We know, no matter what we think meditation is, we will never stop those thoughts. Even Patangali says in the second sutra that yoga is the practice of calming the fluctuations of the mind. The key words there are practice, and calming, not removing completely. I see it as this, just recognize, recognize that you are in that space and that is all they are, illusions, just thoughts, and we are not our thoughts. Redirect. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath.
Picture is from the book When Things Fall Apart - Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chödrön
As we make our way from late March into April, beginning the long and slow transition from Winter to Spring. I am reminded of a passage from one of my favorite books, Wintering The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Kathrine May. I have always had a hard time with Winter, that is until I read this book. This book made me change the way that I look at and use these dark and cold months. I see it now as a time to retreat, to learn, and to grow. I have reached the point that when Spring finally does arrive, I find I am almost weary of losing the guarded and private retreat that I have created. But! With Spring emerges growth, and that growth has been taking place all Winter, and there is possibility with in all of that.
It is becoming more apparent, beyond what yoga has been saying for thousands of years, but through science and research the importance of our breath, especially in relation to our nervous system. Equal-Ratio breath is one of the best breathing techniques to calm not only the mind, but the nervous system as well and helps to bring homeostasis back to the body. This breathing technique can be done anywhere and is a simple as having your inhale and your exhale match to an equal count. Picture below is from Yoga of the Subtle Body by Tias Little (an all time favorite book of mine).
Readiness and commitment is what gets us started, but it is practice that keeps us going and gets us to our goals. Practice is also where we learn the most, the journey is often the more important than the final result. Abhyāsa is diligent focus and practice, and this requires time, and most importantly - Effort. If reaching your goals often seems overwhelming once you have got yourself started, then pause, look at what is you want and break it down into smaller goals, and daily tasks that you can more easily achieve, and then build from there. Progress takes time, but it also takes practice, and a smidge of patience. (Picture below is from The Path of the Yoga Sutras by Nicolai Bachman)
We all know the first step in achieving anything is simply getting started, and even the philosophy of yoga recognizes that. In the Yoga Sutras (196 "threads" of the practices of yoga written my Pantañjali) the very first Sutra recognizing this. Atha, meaning now, is the readiness and commitment to getting started to whatever it is that you are working towards. Often this is the most difficult step, but is also the most important. Commitment and readiness, that is where it begins.