"You cannot do yoga, yoga is your natural state. What you can do are yogic practices which help to reveal to you where you are resisting your natural state."
There are three main focus's in my classes.
1. BREATH AWARENESS - Calm Mind
The breath and the mind are linked. If one is off, the other is probably off too. When we take a little bit of time everyday to just focus on our belly breathing, the mind finds relief from the fluctuating multiple constant thoughts. This simple meditation is key to developing awareness. Once one is comfortable with this practice (pranayama) one gently moves toward breath control during other breathing practices.
The placement of the breath is also important. There are three lobes in each lung. The lower lobes are located in your low belly, sides and lower back. It's where we control our digestion and our reproductive organs. The middle lobes, located around the heart and under the low ribs, are where we hold our assertive qualities. The upper lobes of the lungs are located in our underarms and shoulder area. This is where we find the finer things in life. Many people have to take time to make sure they are using each lobe correctly or at all in order to be able to move further into the pranayama exercises.
By learning how to breath deeply, you start to use your lungs more efficiently; energizing your system. Elongate the inhale; widening and expanding with placement. During a steady exhalation, gently contract the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, and intercostal muscles. Applying this type of contraction rhythmically connects the conscious and unconscious mind.
Sometimes longer, sometimes shorter. At times in the background, at times a source of action. Breath is always present.
2. QUIET AND HAPPY BODY - Truth
If I ever had any advice for anyone it would be, know yourself. Yoga is the perfect opportunity to get to know yourself. You are your own one person package. Honour it. Love it. Listen to it. All your body is ever telling you is please and thank you. So, find out: What does it really need? How do you react to this or that? Who are you? Get to know all your bits and how they feel and fit. Most importantly be yourself without rejection. Just as you are. Without judgement of who you're supposed to be or who you think you are.
We may have to unlearn some things in order to learn how to really be human. How we grew up and what we've learned can block ourselves from seeing the truth. Who we really are. You are so much more beautiful than you think. To be human is powerful. So many untapped strengths lie within you. Sometimes we are not 100% human. Our animalistic tendencies creep out (anger, lust, greed, attachment). By tapping into your inner doubtless wisdom, you start to see these arise, without reacting to them, and watch with great curiosity what is really going on. This is looking at what is creating the sensation of discomfort. In class we do simple practices that will enable you to see and shift imbalances. Whenever I feel myself get angry, sad, fearful, greedy, etc., I stop, take a deep breath, watch what is happening, and make a choice of what to do. Most of the time, I go into another room and shake my whole body and laugh about it and then return to whatever it was I was doing. Shaking off that energy. If it's sadness, I sit in it. Sadness is said to sit right next to happiness. They are both equivalent and important feelings. The link between gives them understanding.
There is a word in sanskrit called "Nara". It means misaligned. It also means to be human. As humans we are naturally misaligned. Yoga teaches us to discover these misalignments and reintegrate. "Naraka" means extreme misalignment or "hell". In other words, some of us are living in hell on Earth in our own bodies. The yogic practices help to release and minimize these misalignments.
Understand that there is a process to everything. The process of yoga for self realization is: 1. Self acceptance and self awareness, 2. Self improvement, 3. Self absorption (referring to a higher self here).
When moving into a pose, stop at your first feeling point. Once that space opens up, move into it. Never force yourself to go beyond your limitations (this can create blocks in the body). Naturally allow each piece to go where it fits. It's not about what the pose is supposed to look like, it's about how it feels.
Relax into the body. Your body is happiest when its quiet, and when it's quiet and not constantly nagging you with pain, you're happier too. Wherever there is gripping or tension, give that area permission to relax. Softening the body while in the pose will teach the body to ease when in stressful situations. Try this anywhere, anytime. Relaxing the body is one of the most important tools to learn in order to practice yoga.
3. INNER JOY - Freedom
This is part of the second stage of Yoga, self improvement. A very complex and strategic path is needed here, which is why self awareness and acceptance have to happen first.
This stage involves doing the things that you need to do. Taking action towards what makes your body and mind happy. That could make you look at what you do and how you feel after ie. the food you eat, the liquids you drink, anything else you put into the body, the life positions you take frequently (sitting at a desk?), THE WAY YOUR MIND THINKS, the amount of sleep, the animals you’re eating (were they happy?), the amount of energy in your foods (did they travel a far distance and lose energy? Or were they over processed?), the sights your eyes see, the sounds your ears hear, cleanliness, your posture or the way you carry yourself, your self care (is it healthy?), the air you breathe, the people in your life, the way you treat others, the choices you make (feeling guilty or ashamed or unwell because of it), are you using your creativity or your intelligence, and truly getting to know what your passionate about, are you doing what makes you happy? All of these can indicate where you can become better at being you. Know yourself, then improve yourself.
The way your mind thinks is important. The pathways in the mind need help rearranging themselves. Meditation is the only way to do this. You can meditate on joy right now.
To practice joy, bring your breath and your thinking and your attention into alignment. Connect to your happy feelings. It can be from a memory of a time or a place that made you feel really happy or vital and then recreate that internally. It can be a place you create inside yourself. A place that nourishes all your deep needs. A place you can go to when you close your eyes and can feel at peace. A place no one else can touch or disrupt. Perhaps a younger version of yourself is there with you, and you're able to encourage or comfort them. Many possibilities here.
Another way is by using a mukha mudra (mood modifier) to help you find joy. By curling up the corners of your mouth and taking a deep breath and spreading that energy of delight through your body. Try that and see how instantly the mood can shift. For some this might feeling like you're faking it at first; yet acting happy can make you feel happy.
You can also find inner joy by making it more personal in that moment. Sometimes when I have to walk up a very steep hill, instead of suffering my way through it, I change my focus. I find something around me to focus on that is beautiful. The way the sun looks behind the clouds or by smelling a flower or by watching that toddler jump in the puddles. By shifting your focus and returning to what's happening right now, you can find joy and gratitude in almost any situation.
By living in the moment we encourage happiness. For those who want to be happy, they have to always know where they are in life. Right here. Otherwise, it gets too complicated. Too much stuff (future and past) to clutter the mind. Living in the moment encourages happiness by removing that junk we get caught up in.
Learning to shift gears internally has to happen in order for you to really understand enlightenment. As the third stage in yoga, Self absorption, can not happen unless you’ve made it through this understanding. Really figuring it out that it’s not truly about being happy all the time; it’s about all of it. All of the feelings become little treasures from this gift: being alive. Feelings pass so quickly (most of the time) that we don’t even notice we’re in them. We don’t even see how happy we truly are. When self absorption happens, the mind is capable of recognizing each moment as a blessing; an opportunity to be one with everything. Nothing becomes everything and everything becomes nothing. And THAT is hilarious. So this all becomes a way of making life wonderful. It is wonderful that you feel so much and you are you. That is your gift.
So whenever you're on your mat (or out in the battlefield of life) and you're struggling or suffering or becoming the victim (or any of the negative places you may go), shift gears internally so that it is a delight to be doing this. Choose joy. It's worth working on.