Stilling the Mind and Body

Everyday, thoughts fill our mind in a chaotic back and forth, churning ideas and obsessions. We think of things we could have done better or differently. We ask ourselves why we said this while we could have said that. We live in the past or in anticipation of the future, missing out on the present. So just stop here for a moment and breathe. Just Be.

I am discovering the practice of Yin Yoga and the benefits it brings to both mind and body. As we settle into a posture, the chatter slows down, bringing our attention to our breath, bringing our gaze inward. Eventually, as the body becomes still the mind follows and allows us to experience great inner peace and calm.

As time passes, our mind is absorbed deeper into stillness, creating space in the body. With every breath we observe an increased space between each inhale and each exhale. The incessant thought process slowly coming to a halt, we now notice and experience our body in its surrounding to the rhythm of our heart beat.

The practice of Yin Yoga not only takes the stretch into our deeper connective tissues, it brings our awareness of Self, mind and body in sync, deeper into the multiple layers of thoughts. There, there is stillness. Here, there is peace. Om Shanti.

Present moment awareness with Yoga

Sthira sukham asanam. Essential insight for the practice of yoga postures, these Sanskrit words are meant to guide us. As Mark Stephens explains it, “Sthira means ‘to be stable or firm’, while sukham means ‘to be soft, at ease, relaxed’. Taken together and put into the context of a dynamic practice, we find a blended quality in which one is cultivating steadiness, ease, and presence of mind, breath by breath, within and between the asanas”.

The term asanam, or asana is often simply translated as pose or posture. However, it means so much more. The interpretation I prefer is “being just here, just now, in the present moment” (B.Bouanchaud). I find this description interesting because it is not limiting, meaning, this can be practiced at all times and not just during a yoga class.

By bringing yoga into our lives as a way of living, we become more in tuned with our senses. We can develop a physical awareness that extends and reaches far beyond the body. Everything becomes in sync within us and around us. We find stillness in the incessant movement of Life. We become grounded in our every breath.

Eventually, this space between asanas expands to the space from one practice to the next, bringing this steadiness and ease into our daily lives. And then, as during every practice, we become lighter, filled with inner peace and joy. For this, I am grateful to those in my life who have introduced me to yoga, taught me yoga (here I include my students) and encouraged me to practice it. Namaste.

A few more thoughts on decisions…

A year or so ago, I was talking with a friend over lunch about daily life and the pressure we felt. We both realized that the stress and unhappiness we endured was often of our own making. Always pushing ahead, planning the next event that would make us enjoy life, we were in fact forcing decisions where there was none to be made, whilst missing out on life.

I’ve been reading Keith McGuinnes’ blog Pilgrimage to Nowhere, a young man’s life journey around the world which has evolved into “a journey into the Self”. While in Bali in 2009, he was already planning the next part of his trip when he stopped and realized that he was actually missing out on what was surrounding him Now. And so, he wrote: “I just need to balance movement and stillness, ensuring when I do move, it is because I am ready to move on, not because I need the distraction” (Freedom of Choice Post).

In Yoga, the Sanskrit term Asana is often translated as “pose” or “posture” but it means so much more. Its more literal translation is “to take a seat” which can be more rightfully interpreted as “being present in one’s body, being just here, just now, in the present moment” (Stephens, 2009). Perhaps what I find most inspiring about practicing Yoga, is this stillness through movement: the steadiness of the mind allowing full body-mind awareness, between and through every breath and posture. At the beginning of each practice, we accept to surrender ourselves completely, allowing this moment to fully be ours.

We are too often condemned for not taking action, for not moving fast enough when often times, the change is already occurring and all that is left to do is accepting it. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves in making the right decision in order to succeed in all life’s situations because if we don’t, we’ve lost and failed. Really? But what if we had actually learned something…

Building on the first step of Acceptance, comes trust in ourselves and in life. By trying to learn and grow from our experience, instead of being disappointed in the outcome of our own decision, we surrender our trust in life. Having understood and included acceptance as a stepping stone, we can then move forward because we understand and we trust ourselves a little bit more, bringing us ever closer to happiness. Enjoy the day, enjoy today.

Living Yoga

This post is the first of many on the topic of Yoga.  Here I wish to share some of the readings I have done, but also share real life experience and thoughts from others on the subject matter.  This journey is barely beginning for me and I know I have so much to learn still.

One of the first book I read on Yoga was Deepak Chopra‘s “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga: A Practical Guide to Healing Body, Mind, and Spirit”.  At the time, I never thought I would have read it and used it as much as I did.  I would read some sections over and over, integrating these practices in my daily life and sharing them when teaching yoga.  And so, I would like to share short passages from this book, for they have been and continue to be useful to me in search of happiness. Enjoy!

For each day of the week, a Spiritual Law.

Sunday is Pure Potentiality, cultivating awareness and practicing non judgment. “Today, I shall judge nothing that occurs, and remind myself that self-acceptance is the source and goal of yoga. Non judgment cultivates silence in the mind, which gives you direct access to the field of pure potentiality.  As you recognize the universality underlying your individuality, you gain access to your full potential.”  This is the Crown Chakra and its mantra is Aum.

Monday: Giving and Receiving. “Outside your asana practice, have the intention to give something to everyone you come into contact with during the day. Similarly, be open to receiving the gifts that come to you during the day.  By doing so, you contribute to circulating love, caring, affection, appreciation and acceptance.” This law is governed by the Heart Chakra, Anahata in Sanskrit, dedicated to overcoming separation and division. “When the heart center is blocked, there is a sense of alienation from others. But when it is opened, you feel connected at a deep level to all living beings in your life.”

Tuesday we may practice the Law of Karma, or of Cause and Effect. “When we consciously choose actions that bring happiness and success to others, the fruit of karma is happiness and success. The Root or Base Chakra governs our most basic survival needs. This chakra connects you to the earth and provides essential information as to the potential nourishment or toxicity that is available to you as a result of the actions you are taking.” Only you can choose your path. Have confidence in yourself, in your decisions.

Wednesday comes with the Least Effort. “There is rhythm and balance in the natural world.  In yoga as in life, patience is a virtue. The more you are able to embrace your limitations and vulnerabilities, the less limits they hold and the more balance and energy you experience.” Practice acceptance, don’t try to muscle your way through life, enjoy it.

Thursday is influenced by the Law of Intention and Desire. “If you want something to grow stronger in your life, direct more attention to it. If you want something to diminish in your life, withdraw your attention from it.” In your yoga practice and in life, remember what your intention was and let go of the outcome.

Friday brings the Law of Detachment which “reveals that in order to acquire something in this world, you have to relinquish your attachment to it. Attachment is based in fear and insecurity. The throat chakra, called Vishuddha is the center of expression. When it is open and flowing, you have the confidence that you are capable of communicating your needs. When it is obstructed, a person will often feel that he or she is not being heard.  You can choose your words and actions, but you have to let go of the outcome, the response to your words and actions. When your intentions are clear and your heart is open, you will spontaneously demonstrate right of speech.”

Saturday we live according to the Law of Dharma or the Purpose of Life. “You have unique abilities and your own way of expressing them. Discover your higher Self. Love yourself. Serve others. Located in the forehead, Ajna often referred to as the third eye, is the Brow or Intuition chakra. When this center is open, you have a deep sense of connection to your inner voice and feel guided in your choices.” Listen and trust yourself.


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