Filling the void seems to be what we excel at. Moments of awkward silence in a lift or at dinner with friends, even lying in Savasana for more than a few minutes, can reveal agitation and anxiety for many.
Yet this space where mindlessness ends and mindfulness begins can be truly transformative. And it begins right now in this moment. So pause for a minute, stop reading and just drop into your body as a field of rising and falling sensations. See if you can just recognize what is there, drop the judgement and throw out the welcome mat.
So how was that? Refreshing? Confronting? Calming? I have many people coming through my healing arts practice with stress responses around change, whether it’s job dissatisfaction or chronic pain. What’s most profound is that change usually occurs more effortlessly with those who can rest and wake-up their inner silence.
So why is it so empowering to do less and be silent? As Blake Pascal rightly says:
‘All man’s sorrows stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room with himself’
What if we could practice getting out of the way of ourselves more often? Drop our beliefs and expectations and not leave relaxation to a holiday period?
Be your own guru: Svadhyana
If you believe that you have the capacity to learn from any event in life, then yoga therapy can support you all the way. Rather than finding ourselves torn by one of life’s raw experiences, consider transforming it into an exploration of your inner nature or a growth into the actuality of who you are. Yoga extends itself way beyond your mat and into each moment of the day. You may even reconnect with your truth through books, movies, dreams or nature. In an age of information overload there’s even more reason to explore your inner nature.
‘Believe nothing, no matter where you read it or who said it, unless it agrees with your own reason.’ Buddha
Embody sustainable yoga: Ahimsa
Have you ever experienced the end of a yoga class where your breathing quietens so much that you feel joyful, alive and connected to everything around you? Or maybe it’s simply the rest at the end that is a welcome relief? The yama of Ahimsa or practicing non-violence flourishes with a mindfulness practice because there’s constant attention to body, breath and mind throughout.
To come to rest and heal: Asana
The word asana means to sit, to rest, and only a few asanas are referred to in older texts as a prelude to meditation. As we advance in our meditation/yoga practice we see the value of resting the mind and its positive influences on our wellbeing.
‘By activating the parasympathetic nervous system the hatha yoga asanas can and have been intended to serve as portals to the spiritual aspects of the yoga practice.’ Georg Feuerstein
Add a mindfulness muscle to your practice: Drashta
Slowing down makes my yoga more raw and insightful. I get to embrace the light with the dark and feel whole again. I came into yoga through my meditation practice and it has been an insightful journey. Mindfulness yoga encourages a heightened awareness of whatever is present in our body and mind. It takes unconditional presence of movement, stillness and breath, and in turn uncovers natural wisdom that can reduce pain levels, and transform anxiety, depression and chronic illnesses.
I’d like to share with you tips on how to re-calibrate:
Play with yin (langhana) and yang (brhmana) mind-body approaches depending on your mood, age and Ayurvedic dosha. For example, if you have arthritis, autoimmune disorders or are menopausal, a yin practice could create more balance. A yang approach would provide balance for a young beginner with a sedentary occupation.
Pause longer between asanas. Taking a longer moment to observe sensations, breath and moving prana develops the ability to open and accept feelings as they are. It also helps with balancing out periods of busyness with times of deep rest in your daily life. These quieter moments can allow difficult emotions to be felt and digested.
Keep your eyes closed to explore from the inside out. Practice sensing from your own inner expression rather than feeling like you have to perform. This can lead naturally into Santosha, a feeling of deeper contentment.
Be intimate with the breath and movement as one. Synchronizing breath and movement can open you to a more intuitive practice. Maintaining sama vritti allows you to feel, be conscious of your body and move as a whole. Pranayana creates energy and helps you to breathe freely and with ease, so that your breath supports a steady mind.
Schedule an annual retreat. There’s no better way to take a power pause than going on a retreat.
Slow down enough to hear yourself. The chitter chatter or chitta vritti is in the mind’s nature. Attending to this aspect, not analyzing it, is where mindfulness reawakens. So meditate every day! Make time in your calendar for at least three sitting practices per week and two informal meditations each day, such as a one-minute mindful walk for each 30 minutes on the computer.
Extend savasana into a 30-minute practice. Ditch being the hero – you know over-committing leads to unwellness. Learning to let go isn’t the easiest thing to do, especially when we ‘don’t have enough time to do everything’. But after an asana practice, resting becomes a process of falling awake. And don’t feel that sleeping is worthless during asana – it may be just what you need! As Judith Hansen Lassiter says:
‘Let go of the need to be right, to have control (Ishvara Pranidhana) or living forever. This process of letting go is integral to the process of becoming whole’.
Just like tuning an instrument, we attend to our pause breaks for our own sanity and renewal. And with a reawakened mindfulness comes a natural flourishing of warmth to others.
Begin by joining a Yoga class that emphasizes inner presence like the Mindfulness Yoga classes in Woden Canberra, or develop a personal yoga practice with the support of a Yoga Therapist that holds you accountable to your well-being goals.
‘How beautiful to do nothing and then rest afterwards.’ Spanish proverb