“Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self”
~ Excerpt from ancient Indian text, The Bhagavad Gita.
Welcome to your sacred space as you take your place on your mat, on your cushion and in your life. Every moment is an opportunity to enter and acknowledge that sacred space.
We often find our place on our mat as a way to relax, soften and connect with ourselves. The toll of fast living is claiming its victims and often we find students of yoga dropping into class are in a state of sensory overload. The constant streams of information we are exposed to via smartphones, TV’s and internet, combined with the challenges of our jobs, family, friends and relationships can leave us feeling exhausted and immune to listening to ourselves in knowing when to slow down and pause.
Even if we come to our mats for a physical work-out, to de-stress or let off steam, the true medicine of yoga will reveal itself, perhaps manifesting slowly, depending on frequency and commitment.
The opening will begin. At first, it can be hard to recognize. Perhaps we only notice once we stop regular practice. Life just feels fast again. There is not as much head space. We find ourselves out of balance once again. And then we sit. And something shifts again. Back and Forth we go. Maybe this process takes many months or years. But eventually, we come to recognize the space and freedom that we carry in our heads and our hearts through our commitment to ourselves. That we are becoming that space and freedom. Moving deeper and deeper into the present moment.
Yoga has a beautifully artful way of moving beyond the mental patterns that cause many of our anxieties, depression and feelings of unworthiness. Through this craft, we are invited into our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) – the system that counterbalances the sympathetic nervous system. The PNS helps to restores our bodies to a state of calm as it works to decrease our heart rate. Too many of us are operating on our Sympathetic Nervous System – the system responsible for speeding up, of tensing up, being constantly ‘On’, or alert. Essentially; our ‘Fight or Flight’ system (evolutionarily, responsible for survival) is triggered to unprecedented levels as we advance through the technological ages and respond to the societal demands around us.
Yoga allows us a way to short circuit this never ending merry-go-round of constant doing and continual (over?) thinking.
There is an adage in the Yogic world; “Inhale the future, Exhale the past”. What a wonderful and simple insight to bring to our mats, that we view the breath as the invitation back into the present moment, back into our bodies, and back into our lives.
By using the breathe, we are guided through the flow, through the experience, through our resistances; physically, energetically, mental and spiritual. We can use the breath, bringing it from the background, into the foreground, through all the stories we are at this very moment telling ourselves, and through life. We can substitute our stories for our breath awareness. The breath holds more truth than the stories will ever.
This practice of concentration allows us to create a cooling space within, space for ourselves, and therefore, space for others. Yoga wakes us up.
It is that beautifully simple.
As the great mystic and poet, Rumi, said long ago “The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear”. And so it is, through Yoga, we can find a way to step out. The essence of life that we live nowadays is a fast society, and if we are to meet the demands of such, it is reasonable to balance this out. The ancient tradition of Daoism (Taoism) from where Chinese Medicine takes its roots, is about harmony of two complementing forces. Hear in the West, we often confuse this concept of Yin-Yang as a dualism. However, It is not about two opposing forces fighting to gain dominance or being in one, as opposed to the other.
Yin Yang is about two interdependent forces working together to maintain life eternally. It is as the sun needs the moon, as the moon needs the sun, the ever shifting seasons, the recognition that one must come with the other.
“Yoga is like music. The rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind, and the harmony of the soul create the symphony of life” B.K Iyengar
The advantage here, is that we give up the game. The game of seeking and the game of running. Of pushing certain feelings and experiences away, and grasping after others. Knowing that this fusion of different elements is what make up our lives, we free up so much mental energy for better things.
To paraphrase the great teacher, Lord Buddha, when questioned about meditation (Meditation + Yoga = Integral). He was asked “What is it that you have gained from meditation?” To which he replied “Nothing. However, let me tell you what I have lost: Anger, Anxiety, Depression, Insecurity, Fear of old age and death”
He further clarified this with “Meditation brings wisdom: lack of meditation leaves ignorance. Know well what leads you forward and what holds you back. And choose the path that leads of wisdom”. It is a long journey inwards, with many layers to peel back and unravel, the longest journey any of us can participate in, more than any far flung exotic destinations. To see ourselves, as we truly are, is a gift.
If we approach our practices with a sense of grasping, of wanting or needing to fix something, then we are misinterpreting the essence of these wisdom’s.
The Bhagavad Gita summarizes Yoga as “the practice of tolerating the consequences of being yourself”, which sounds very reasonable. It is about finding those edges, both physically and mentally, and then, letting go. (The hardest asana)
We cannot separate how we approach our practices and how we deal with life. They are the mirror, the gates into our inner self. Our True Self.
Yoga, combined with meditation practice, allows us glimpses into our inner thought processes and a recognition of what we are beneath the layers. We only need to find the silence to delve deep. Where we are now, need not be the final resting place.
“You cannot do yoga. Yoga is your natural state. What you can do are yoga exercises, which may reveal to you where you are resisting your natural state” Sharon Gannon
Xenia teaches Gentle Hatha Classes, Dynamic Vinyasa Flow Sequences and Spirituality Orientated Yin Classes. Available for private and group classes.