... and your body includes (at least some of) your mind. Stress: physical reaction. Emotions: at least in part physical. Thoughts: require physical activity that can be imaged and tracked.
You don't have to know how the body and mind interact or whether they are in fact one to understand that what you do with your body effects how you feel. How you feel effects how you think. How you think effects how you act. How you act is what you do with your body, so the cycle goes round and round.
Whether you are dealing with a malady recognized by the healthcare system such as diabetes, arthritis, allergies and inflammation or just want more strength or flexibility (or both), or seek "stress" reduction, more vitality or mood support - there's a yoga for that.
Yoga is a system of techniques and practices for increasing and decreasing reactions and processes in the body and what we usually refer to as the mind. That's why it sometimes gets construed as mystical or religious. Yoga is the user manual for your body.
Does this mean yoga will fix any or all of these things all the time? No. Does yoga hold all the answers? Absolutely not. Yoga works hand in hand with many other answers - but it is part of the solution when the question is about how to effect the body. Yoga is a set of practices and techniques that you do yourself, under the guidance of a skilled teacher for the best results. This is empowerment, this is understanding and this is something that enhances other systems and techniques that support the body in wellness and you in experiencing your wholeness. One of my favorite ministers recently said in sermon that healing isn't fixing: it's returning to the experience of wholeness. Sometimes this comes with a "fix." Sometimes things can't be returned to any prior state. But as long as you are you, you are whole Returning to an experience of this - as opposed to experiences of disconnection, reduction, dissembling, evaluating, comparing and objectifying which so often happens when we seek to experience more or less of something - is the beginning of what yoga provides.
Want to feel more awake? There's a technique for that. Want to wind down for a good sleep? There's a technique for that. Want to suffer less from pain? There are techniques for that. Want to be stronger + more flexible? That, too. Cardio? Yep. HIIT? Yep. Resistance? Yep. Want to experience less stress? Yoga's got you covered.
Here's the rub: yoga isn't like a car wash: you go in one end dirty, have a few solutions applied and get rubbed by a brush and come out the other end shiny. There isn't a pill or a cut for that in yoga. Yoga is something is something you do. If you're looking to be fixed, move on. If you're looking to do something positive that will help you feel the way you want to feel, you're in the right place.
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Sometimes you roll out your mat and daydream until you realize you only have 5 minutes left. Sometimes you feel like you have to choose between yoga practice and brushing your hair.
We all have those mornings - sometimes strings of them together. Invariably, when I feel least like getting on my mat, when I finally get there and get past Up Hands, all of the sudden a string of poses I simply *must* do wells up inside of me and I realize I have time for maybe 2. Okay 3 if I don't salt the hard boiled eggs before throwing them in my bag for breakfast while I drive.
While I love combo yoga all the time, it's particularly applicable on these mornings. If you've been in class lately, you've been introduced to one of my favorite go-to combos: Kapalabhati (bulb syringe breath) in Fierce Pose. What I love most about these combos is that it reveals all yoga poses are "combo:" you inhale as you raise your hands, you exhale as you forward bend; you inhale as you lengthen, you exhale as you go into or deepen the twist. Sun Salutations? The ultimate combo for 360 wellness (just notice how you feel in Savasana afterward!)
So what it really comes down to is that even one yoga pose, when you attend to and coordinate the breath, when you feel it out to your toenails and hair, this pose is a practice some mornings. True, other days need to be complete classes for this to really be effective, but the difference between the days with no morning practice at all (morning for me, may be different for you) and the days of even a single pose - that difference is epic, meaningful, crushing and uplifting.
So you don't know what to do "next" - big deal. Do one now, breathe it, reach out through your fingers and toes, reach in to your real core, the place where you resonate. Your you will be better for it. One pose, a world of being.
When you remember your last yoga practice, what images do you have?
Do you remember the feeling of being in the poses? So well you could recreate the pose?
Or do you have in mind an image of your teacher or the person next to you or the screen from which you were practicing?
When you turn your senses inward (pratyahara) you begin to register not only how the poses make you feel and how having practiced yoga makes you feel all day, but you remember the poses in your body.
While for some, it may take an extra moment to process spoken instructions without a demo, it's worth that moment and effort, at least for a percentage of practices. That moment, that "extra" moment... that's the moment of dropping in and inhabiting your body.
Yoga is defined by the 8 limbs outlined by Patanjali in the Sutras, the work that all lineages acknowledge. 2 of these limbs are "focus" and "concentration" which, together with "flow", make up "samyama" - or meditation.
Have you ever heard your teacher encourage you not to compare yourself to the next person, to focus on your own mat? Rather than looking around to see if you're "doing it right," listen and feel how it feels in your body.
When you listen, you listen. You focus and you focus on your body in space, engaging parts of your body that may have forgotten how to engage.
Listen for at least one practice a week. See how it changes your practice and your day. Share your experience in a comment below and join the movement!