02 Sep Some Things Practising Yoga Has Taught Me…
Alice’s Yoga journey began when she was in her late teens (2010) and has taken her through many adventurous and unexpected years during her 20s. She acknowledges in this blog how Yoga can enrich our lives in so many ways, sprinkling the philosophy of Yoga through interpretations of the 7 key energy centres and some of the Yamas & Niyamas.
We’d love to hear what Yoga has taught you!
THE ART OF LIVING IN THE ‘NON-LINEAR’
Structure is important. It is the foundation that roots us, supports us and provides healthy boundaries from which we can grow (Muladhara Chakra- first energy centre). Many people draw inspiration for their practice from the set sequences of vinyasa, ashtanga and other lineages- it makes sense. However, not all bodies want do those exact practices all the time. If we are continuously going backwards and forwards on our mats, in the same repetitive motion, then what are we telling ourselves? A set sequence like Ashtanga, offers important, grounding in self-practice and in life. Yet, we can get stuck with certain habits and attached to ideas on what we ‘should be’ doing- this kind of rigidity can be harmful as it is longer intuitive. Especially if things are hurting us and we continue anyway. There is room to flow, listen and be spontaneous within a learned structure. You might try integrating non-linear/primal movements into your practice when things feel stuck. Get off the rubber rectangle. Play. Reconnect to the sensory pleasure and joy of moving freely (Sacral Chakra – second energy centre). Or do a completely different movement practice and see how that informs your Yoga. This helps to step outside the box and move away from where you think you ‘should be’ on your mat… or in life. You’re here for a reason: so take a look around. There’s so much to see and you might be surprised at what you find.
LETTING GO (Aparigraha)
We have come to be danced
Not the pretty dance
Not the pretty pretty, pick me, pick me dance
But the claw our way back into the belly
Of the sacred, sensual animal dance
The unhinged, unplugged, cat is out of its box dance
The holding the precious moment in the palms
Of our hands and feet dance.
– We Have Come To Be Danced, Jewel Mathieson
The practice is not perfectly symmetrical or neat… or tidy. It reflects real life: unexpected joy woven into the places you thought might be dull. Things coming together just when you wanted to give up. The spontaneous expression of the universe doing its thing. Let go, surrender to your deep inner knowledge that you are on the right path. Through precise movement and learned techniques we follow the thread of the breath, but the bigger picture is yet to be discovered. We don’t always know where we are going, and if we choose trust instead of fear, there’s more hope we will stumble upon humility & wonder.
Life can pull us is many different directions at once. We can be all to eager to dwell on the past or busy ourselves making plans for the future. Observe it in this variation of peaceful warrior: one leg forward, yet arm and gaze drawn back. To sustain it we draw from our centre: integrating the work in the feet and the legs up into the musculature of the pelvis….anchoring through this centre of gravity to find our balance. Isn’t that what we can do in life? Instead of allowing ourselves to be pulled back and forth, we can remain steady at the centre and draw balance from our resources there. From that place, we can retrieve or sense of power and make clear decisions, (Manipura chakra – third energy centre). We can be ‘in union’ with these opposite forces. So when things get rocky, we are not shaken; we have the resources for remaining calm and content.
SELF LOVE & CARE (Ahimsa- Non-Harming)
How many of us can honestly say that we love ourselves? Not the kind of love that is narcissistic or proud. A love that is nurtured by self-respect, teaches you your worth and recognises that you have a right to walk this earth in happiness and harmony (Anahata chakra- fourth energy centre). Most of us do not begin our practice with an attitude of non-harming… in fact oftentimes our practice can be a place where we beat ourselves up. Where we face our egos. Somewhere down the line, we may notice how this attitude does not serve our bodies or lives.
“The body uses its skin and deeper fascia and flesh to record all that goes on around it. Like the Rosetta Stone, for those who know how to read it, the body is a living record of life given, life taken, life hoped for, life healed. It is valued for its articulate ability to register immediate reaction, to feel profoundly, to sense ahead.”
– Women Who Run With Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Through the remapping and rewiring that the physical practice of Yoga offers us, the shape of our brains can change (neuroplasticity); our behaviour can change. We realise the self-judgement, guilt, resentment and fear that we carry with us in our tissues and bones, and how we may treat ourselves harshly because of this baggage. In this discovery, there is possibility for the opposite to flourish, and a loving relationship with the self to evolve.
SUSTAINABILITY & COMMUNITY (Sangha)
By practising something, (whether that be Yoga or another method that draws you into the present moment), you are practising discipline. This can teach you another way of being. If you can show up at the times in life when everything else feels broken, then you are acknowledging your own power, your ability to heal and connect to the wider life force that surrounds you. Valuing this aspect, teaches us the significance of sustainability in all walks of life. Treat yourself kindly, honour your creative expression and speak your truth, (Vishudda Chakra- fifth energy centre). With this you have the potential to offer your gifts into the greater environment of other living beings and this earth. This teaching comes from one of the most well known Sanskrit Mantras:
Lokah Samastah Sukino Bhavantu
May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.
In our asana practice we make the shapes of other living creatures, boats and bridges; symbols of connection, journeying and our assimilation with the earth. Perhaps you develop a more conscious approach to living, making greener choices or have a greater awareness of what/who consumes your time. Growing your understanding to something much bigger than yourself inevitably shifts your perspective so you have a clearer and wider vision, (Ajna Chakra- sixth energy centre).
With deep insight and intuition you might find yourself more open to the subtle realms of healing; states of bliss that can be experienced in Gong Baths or Yoga Nidra. Perhaps, just for a moment, as you lie in Savasana (resting posture), you find yourself in a place of complete and utter peace: a step closer to what has been described by ancient yogis as universal consciousness, (Sahasrara Chakra- seventh energy centre).
Alice teaches the early morning Hatha sessions every Friday at Yoga Reading, 7-8am. These are steadily paced classes that include various breathing exercises (pranayama), meditation techniques and yoga asana/postures, all of which contribute to physical and mental wellbeing. Each themed session explores detailed alignment principles, by applying our modern understanding of how the body functions to traditional Yoga postures. Myths, stories and aspects of Yoga philosophy are sometimes shared as sources of inspiration & creativity. We draw to a close with restorative positions and/or long relaxation. All are welcome to join.Drop-in’s and class passes available- bookable here.