People’s most common response to me when I tell them I am teaching yoga now is that they are not flexible. I have noticed that a lot of people believe they are not suited to yoga.
Yoga takes you exactly as you are.
- I don’t need to be flexible to do yoga. But if I practice yoga my mind and body is more flexible.
- I don’t need to be strong, but if I practice yoga I feel physically and mentally strong and I slowly gain strength.
- I don’t need to be good at meditating, but if I practice yoga I learn to slip into the pure clean and clear place where I feel my breath floating up and down my spine and I am truly present and I have arrived in my body.
- Often I think I don’t have time to go to yoga on Tuesday morning to do a yin yoga practice where the poses are held for many minutes. I go anyway and I slow down and enter a deep state of relaxation and I carry that with me through the rest of the week.
I am naturally flexible, so I have focused on strengthening my muscles and mind in my practice. Sometimes I have held so much tension in my body that everywhere feels tight and bound up and yoga has helped to lengthen, twist and release the tension in my muscles. I have often felt anxious and flustered and unable to meditate and I have learnt to stay with my breathing when the urge is to scratch or fidget or fall out of the posture.
I have come to understand that when I go to a yoga class I can expect to find people just like me who are flustered, stressed, anxious, worried, distracted and caught up or smiling too much when deep down they are feeling sad or anger is bubbling just below the surface. And I expect to see these people experiencing what it is to be human there next week.
A close friend of mine works in a stressful workplace where mistakes have great consequences. And the conflict that arises is often not about the actual technical issues at hand, but rather the tone of voice with which someone has spoken to someone or someone feels that their thoughts are not valued or someone is making light of another’s concerns. It always comes down to how the people feel they are being treated. And the energy of the workplace becomes so heavy with the conflict and there is not time and space to process and resolve what has happened because the important caring work must continue.
My friend asked me how to get out of a funk on a day like this in the workplace.
I answered that I understood her dilemma because I had had a similar experience on my birthday. My family was at my house for my birthday dinner. Everyone was helping to prepare the meal and I was being particularly bossy. I felt compelled to tell people what they were doing wrong. I could feel that my energy was off but was too tied up in getting everyone fed to slow down and feel what I was feeling. I knew I was hurtling along and hurting my loved ones in the process but I felt powerless to stop it. In the moment I was so wound up I didn’t have the capacity to breathe and slow down and feel.
When I met one of the Okido yoga teachers from Family Yoga in Japan, Mr Iishi, on a recent visit of his to Brisbane one of my friends asked Mr Iishi how one can change their energy when you know it is off or low. And Mr Iishi had a couple of great suggestions. First, he suggested that if it was an immediate situation like you had to work straight away, one way to switch things up would be to change your breathing. He suggested going somewhere quiet like a cupboard and doing some lion breaths. This is where on your exhale breath you poke out your tongue and stretch your face make a silent roar or growl like a lion. A few lion breaths and you are on your way.
The second suggestion for a longer funk that is hanging around is to go on a holiday. Or maybe just go shopping. How funny that even yoga teachers believe there is a t time and a place for retail therapy!!
I first came to yoga because of how it felt in my body. I explore more deeply because I know it helps with how I feel in my body and heart/mind.