Growth in (and out) of your yoga practice
LIFESTYLE | YOGA
By: Kody Galea
“The study of asana is not about mastering posture. It’s about using posture to understand and transform yourself.” B.K.S. Iyengar
As anybody who has been to a yoga class can tell you, yoga is about so much more than the body. While there are many physical benefits to yoga, the true essence of yoga is about harnessing the power of the mind. In fact, there were very few asanas in traditional yoga, and they were used only as a means of tiring the body, in preparation for stillness in meditation. While in modern times, meditation has been hailed as a way to stop the wandering mind, or turn off the chatter, meditation is simply a practice of awareness. So in this way, we use asana to ground down, exhaust the body, and wind down into meditation (or savasana) where we stay present, sit with our thoughts and learn more about our habits, emotions and desires.
“Yoga does not remove us from the reality or responsibilities of everyday life but rather places our feet firmly and resolutely in the practical ground of experience. We don’t transcend our lives; we return to the life we left behind in the hopes of something better.” Donna Farhi
When I first began yoga, I was dealing with chronic anxiety, and for many months had been trying to escape my mind, find distractions, and keep busy, in the hopes that if I ignored it, it would eventually go away. Then I went to my first yoga class, and for the first time in my life felt at peace, because I wasn’t wishing my thoughts away, I was finally listening to what my mind was really trying to tell me. So everytime we are on our yoga mats, and are faced with the fears, challenges and constant chatter that come with being human, we are taught to stay and listen. A lot of it may just be noise, but some of it is coming from our deep subconscious, and if we listen carefully enough, without judgement, we learn things that we can take with us when we walk back out into the world.
For instance, maybe you go to a yoga class in a time of crisis, like losing work. The class isn’t going to magically rewind time, or find you your dream job, but the time to deep-dive into your thoughts can give you the gift of perspective. The fear of ‘what will I do?’ gets quieter, while the subconscious thoughts get louder, and maybe you realise this job wasn’t what you really wanted, and this has given you an opportunity for time to work out a new plan, or the motivation to follow your true desires. When you step off that mat, the world you go back into will likely be the exact same world you left an hour ago, but with a new perspective, there is hope that you can create a brighter future.
“Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.” The Bhagavad Gita
Looking at modern yoga and the asanas and sequences it involves, there can be less room for the stillness and meditation in a class setting, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There are many poses that can invite this same sense of self-inquiry, focus and grounding. Vrikshasana, Tree pose, involves balancing and drishki (gaze) bringing the body into acute focus, as well as a sense of growth in the invitation to spread limbs and uplift the body towards the sky. Many people also find that inversions, such as handstands, are a great way to stay present, as there are so many points of balance to focus on, and a great opportunity for growth in the continual practise of the shape, as well as the common fears around it. In contrast, many yin postures allow meditation to be more accessible, and inviting, as the sequence yields space to mini-meditations, and allows for some movement and sensations to keep the mind at ease.
Whether your form of meditation is in stillness or movement, yoga asks us to be present in every moment of our lives, so that we can enjoy the good times, and allow ourselves to process and learn from the not so good times. Every moment we allow ourselves to feel, is a moment closer to healing, and a moment in our endless opportunity for growth, both on and off the mat.
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