The Challenge is Daily Self Reflection
Making time for a home yoga practice is always a challenge. Whether its walking the dog, brushing your teeth or driving your car, there is always time to be present with your body, mind and breath. There are actually 8 limbs or categories of yoga, with the physical posture (asana) being only one of them. However, sadly enough many Westerners focus on the outer or physical realm leaving the rest of ourselves including our inner selves by the wayside.
Yoga teaches us the practice of self- study called Svadhyaya or self relfection, creating a positive environment in which we can grow. By becoming a witness and taking a non judge mental approach towards ourselves we can asses where we are mentally, emotionally and physically at any given time.
Let’s start with the breath rather than our physical posture and build from there. Are you breathing deeply and fully? I like to ask students to imagine a filling a carafe from the bottom up (belly, ribs, neck, shoulders) and three-dimensional breath expanding on all sides, like a balloon. How about the quality of your breath? This will reflect where your body and mind are. Chances are if your breath is short and fast, it’s highly possible your mind is racing and your body is tense. Of course the breath will adjust to your level of physical activity if your doing something active, but you can still be aware that you’re breathing effectively. There are many breathing techniques in yoga that can be implemented any time of the day- one easy one in particular could be just taking a mindful deep breath in through your nose, pausing at the top of the inhale and slowly exhaling long through the nose. You can do this 3-10 times consciously slowing the breath down. Great! Now this is meditation!
Now that you’re breathing, where is your body? Are you sitting, standing, walking or lying in a way that feels balanced? For starters, we can’t possibly breath effectively if we are hunched over a computer or in a traffic rage.
Follow these posture tips throughout your day by having you’re ‘little teacher witness’ nearby with a ‘ruler’ reminding you to sit or stand tall with shoulders back and your neck long like Abraham Lincoln.
- When sitting pull your gluteal flesh back and sit on your sitting bones and if standing be sure your heels are under your hips.
- Watch you are not tucking your tailbone throwing you off balance.
- When reclined, recline elegantly so your spine stays long and is not compromised.
- Rule of thumb, if something hurts it is possibly out of balance.
- If you have any chronic pain, by all means check with a physician first.
Now, where is your mental head space? We often like to create distractions or get busy to avoid our sometimes over active minds. Remember ‘you are not your story’ and can drop the drama. Ask your witness what is really true now, or are you obsessing over the past, future or something simply out of your control? It’s time to witness and harness or reverse any unnecessary thoughts that may not be serving you. I understand with our busy hectic lives that an hour meditation may not be on your priority list, but what about a few seconds or minutes here and there? Kind of like a check in. Maybe you can build up to 10-15 minutes on a good day! Often, when I get a moment, I might take a close-by seat or sit in my car and just check in with my self, my breath and my body and consciously relax my jaw, shoulders, thighs and hands to see I am not gripping. Just by doing this practice we can learn to ground and get out of our heads. After awhile of practicing this check in or witnessing the minds activities we can start to maybe notice patterns or judgements we have developed overtime and work on reversing this negative charge by just being patient with yourself and not reacting to the mind, but rather the present moment. Ultimately, it’s a dance with our ego.
So, we can practice Yoga or balancing with nature simply through an exploration of awareness. Check in with yourself often and do not be afraid to explore yourself;
your breath, body awareness and your mind or ego.