As a Mentor and Teacher Trainer I have the privilege in being constantly reminded of just how many benefit from Yoga in so many different ways. This is why Yoga I believe stands the test of time and has been around for thousands of years. Something that adds so much value to life will always sustain itself.
I received this from Suzie O’Connor who is currently on our Yoga Teacher Training Mentoring Program and has commenced Level 1 Mindfulness Training with Yoga NRG, thanks Suzie for sharing.
There are some days that my mat is the last place I want to be. I don’t want to practice, I’d rather run and hide and numb myself from feeling. This is time when I know it is more important than ever to show up. It’s usually a time when I find myself fighting one of the greatest battles I have ever come to fight – the internal one with myself.
The first step towards freeing yourself from suffering and self-sabotage is to first become aware of what is going on. This step has taken me a lifetime to discover and yoga is one of tools I use to help me.
Instead of becoming prisoners to the suffering, we can use yoga to help us witness our habits and our automatic pilot responses to life and to the workings of our minds. Yoga is a tool to help us find space in your body, physically and emotionally – enough space to allow us to take a step back and notice what is going on. The goal is not to try get rid of our challenges, but to place them in a larger context so that their impact can be dissolved easier and we can get on with life. One of my yoga teachers says “What happens when you put a teaspoon of salt in a glass of water? – It is going to be pretty salty right? But what would happen if you put that teaspoon into a lake? – the teaspoon of salt is still
there but the impact is minimal!” I have to admit that since I started practicing yoga 8 months ago and immersing myself in its philosophy, my glass of water has gradually expanded to a jug of water and it is on its way to becoming a bath. It is forever expanding outwards and that salty taste is diluting more and more as the challenges I face have less and less of an impact. I don’t get thrown off balance as easily as I used to.
Yoga helps us to expand our awareness, to become that lake so we can use that awareness tool to notice rather than get caught up in a battle with the challenges we face. The greater the awareness, the great the size of the lake, the easier it is to keep connected to our true authentic selves and the bigger picture.
RESPOND with GRACE…
The second step is choosing how to respond. Yep, it is a choice and you are responsible for making that choice. It is something that takes PRACTICE, every, damn, day. With greater awareness, we discover that we actually have options available to us when we are faced with a challenge. If you are too busy in the battle with the feelings, emotions and discomfort, you close yourself off to the opportunity to change your experience. As the saying goes – where the attention goes, energy flows.
If, like me, you suffer from the art of creating things that don’t exist (AKA overthinking), then it is likely that you catastrophize the situation and end up going deeper into analysing it and spending too much time in “what-if land” – sometimes you go so far up your own ass, it’s almost impossible to make your way back down.
Once we notice, we have a choice on what to do next. We can continue to feed this negative cycle or we can decide to change our experience by changing our focus.
Your focus is your magic wand, the key to breaking yourself free from the refinements of the compound of suffering your mind has created. Yoga is a focusing tool. Through the poses and guidance of our teachers, we are encouraged to bring our focus to what is going on in our bodies,which draws the mind back into the body. It gives your mind little tasks to tune into sensation, to breathe through discomfort and find moments of ease in the body. It encourages us not to judge what is going on but to be present to it all, good or bad. The more I practice yoga the better I get at focusing attention inward, getting present to what is and break the “what if” analytical cycle. Every time we draw our attention inward, we are essentially doing a bicep curl for your brain. With practice you can strengthen this mental muscle and this can have profound effects on your ability to deal with life. I practice this technique whilst sitting at my desk at work… my mind gets drawn away from what I am doing, I become aware and then draw it back to what I am doing. The more time I spend on my mat, in my body and away from the mind, the more space and awareness I create in my body and the easier it is for me to apply this focusing tool in my daily life. With greater awareness comes great power to end your suffering and focus on the bigger picture.
When my life fell apart last year, I attempted everything to fix it to get it back to get my old life back and my identity. The more I attempted to fix myself, the more broken and anxious I got and I fell deeper into despair. In my attempts to fix, I was missing out on the opportunities on offer to me tochange what was not working in my life. Fixing what was broken was all I knew. Yoga gave me an alternative. It gave me a chance to slow down and take a look at what was going on. It was not an easy thing to do, but through my practice, it is getting easier. If you ask me what is the hardest part of yoga – it’s having the courage to show up on the most difficult days.
Yoga has this way of unravelling the knots that I hold so tightly in my body in an attempt to “hold my life together”. It opens me up and releases the tension and emotions from my body. Some days I cry, some days I laugh – but every day – I show up, no matter what. I have experienced days of sheer frustration and panic on the mat – these have turned out to be some of my most profound practices, even if at the time I just want to run away. These moments have helped me to expand my capacity to deal with life. This is why yoga is now a non-negotiable daily habit for me.
The greatest gift yoga has given me is the empowerment in realising that there is something I can do to help myself, that I am not powerless and I don’t have to be a prisoner of my mind and my suffering.
The second greatest gift yoga has given me is to encourage me to approach life with more lightness, to laugh at my humanness and to embrace the possibilities and opportunities of this weird and wonderful life, to see my challenges as opportunities to grow, to love myself more. The third greatest gift is that I get to share this amazing gift with the rest of the world and my experience may positively impact someone else and this will continue to have a flow on effect.
Yoga untangles the knots and connects the dots for me…and for that I am so grateful for Yoga.
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