How you think affects how you move. And how well you move affects how well you live. What is your mind filled with everyday? What does it say of you and your daily landscape? Is the inner dialogue positive? If not, can you change this? Yes, you can!
One of the blessings of yoga practice is that it often helps us realise just how much there is to learn about our mind and our conditioned patterns. Once a consistent yoga practice is established, oftentimes it will affect your lifestyle. The practice is much like a mirror reflecting your ways of being; likes and dislikes your points of vulnerability and likewise your areas of wisdom. It can reveal all. It brings about an array of questioning. But simultaneously it shows how much power we have to sustain our health and wellbeing through self-observation and self-care techniques.
Cultivating a habit to watch our mind is a powerful way to foster change. My personal favourite is doing a daily check-in of whether I am content. Notice the moments in which an obstructive thought kicks in to disturb this contentment by introducing the feeling of judgement or dissatisfaction. The instant it does, look for that undercurrent of thinking, like soft whispering. That for example, what you have is not enough, that you are not worthy, that you should have done this or that, etc. Challenge the thought. Do I really need more? Is this a priority or value in the long run that nourish my soul?
Turn it around immediately. Think of all the ways in which you are lucky and blessed. Think of all the things you are grateful for and use those to drown out your desire and discontent. Reinforce this on your yoga mat.
We all want that body that surfaces when we are on holidays! I’ve heard many of my students tell me that their body is at its optimal self when they are vacationing. Usually it is a warm tropical country. Their yoga practice skyrockets into another space of effortlessness and voluptuous power.
I must hereby admit that I have experienced the same ecstasy where hips open willingly, backbends come with ease, moving in any direction feels soothing and sitting in silence becomes an oasis one eagerly wants to return to. Why is this not happening back at the home base?
There are many factors that contribute to this alteration in the mind and body. However, I believe there is one main switch that needs to be triggered, and it will connect with the rest… And you can use it at the homefront!
That is, consciously slowing everything down. Slowing down the way you move, talk, cook, think things through, etc. Try lingering just a tiny bit longer with observing something, listening to someone, stretching, tasting food…stay really present. The key thing is value it; feel really good about slowing down.
Your nervous system will build resilience, you will cultivate healthy vagal tone, oxytocin levels will rise and your brain will be spurred on to change. You will connect deeper to the things that matter to you.
Now if you still want that holiday… Then by all means run to a Yoga Retreat holiday at a sunny destination this Winter! You’ll practice with others, breath and feast like you’ve never done before ☺
I have heard of many Norwegians mention they enjoy their holidays in ”Syden”. My Norwegian Ashtanga Yoga enthusiasts speak about going to ”Mysore”. This in turn, means KPJAYI – the Krishna Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute located in the city of Mysore in the state of Karnataka in India.
For many years my personal ”syden” was ”mysore,” and for many around the world it continues to be their ultimate holiday destination. For the numerous times i had made this my destination, it guaranteed satisfaction. It was nothing less than an all-in-one package : a daily early morning strong physical training, brunch with an international crowd, a myriad of spiritual settings and exotic scenery to fathom..in addition to affordable accomodation and shopping and ofcourse there is wifi.
Is Yoga for you? This question may be the first you ask. It may also appear later down the road when you ask your self ”Is it still for me?” Both are healthy and valid processes of self-examination. Whether you are a raw beginner to yoga or a seasonned practitioner, perhaps the following reasonning and tips may shed some light onto this area.
The answer to whether it is the right investment for you lies in what it is you want from it – a work-out, a practice, a journey…
I’ll just tell you a little bit about my story of how the yoga seed was planted and how it grew. It all started with my Polish mystic mom drilling into my head the adage that you must heal and change things on the inside as to change or fix anything on the outside.
I wondered how in the world do you get inside? With that suspended over my head, I graduated in the Fine Arts at the age of 24 and then went backpacking in Europe. I did tree planting and was commissioned to paint murals and portraits. Then I got a job at the biggest Fine Arts store in Canada, while I figured out what to do next.
After instructing a long slew of yoga teacher training programs, I noticed that most students that sign up for this venture experience a journey that goes beyond the practical physical learning. Her are 5 common reflections the graduates shared of their experience and how they applied it to life after graduating.
1. Feeling human again. From feeling alienated from themselves and others they became better acquainted with themselves and developed a genuine interest in others. The asana practices, breathing exercises, mindful sitting exercises and self-observation assignments elevated their power of perception. What changed in their lives? Instead of mechanically reverting to texting or communicating via Facebook and other media, they made the choice to meet friends, co-workers, family members in person. Seeing the person, feeling the person´s energy, and listening intently to what they were saying and often times what they were not saying.
2. Not taking things too seriously. When asked to adjust their fellow students and take turns teaching in groups – many had to exit their comfort zones. What happened next? Laughter…laughing at oneself, and being comfortable with that. Coming to this state takes a high degree of self-acceptance. What changed in their lives? They took things less personally and could better discern useless drama and maintain it at a low level in their personal lives and in work situations. Better yet, they became more likeable because they actually enjoyed their own company.
3. Sharpening one´s focus and attentiveness. The course beckons students to fully immerse themselves in an ancient system that asks you to act, speak, breathe and think more mindfully. The in-class practice of watching their classmates intently to know where to adjust them, where and what advice to provide as to further their yoga practice, or where to modify the practice to suit their body and temperament presented a difficult albeit invaluable tool – that of being internally neutral and calm as to be fully present and aware of others. What changed in their lives? The ability to still oneself as to foresee or anticipate shifts coming.
4. Loving oneself and wanting to be seen. Those who never thought they would embark in the whole social media thing, who stumbled when asked to write their profile or retracted when having to list a dream they wished to pursue, or a challenge they wanted to accomplish – they found their voice.…and within this voice was a clarity and presence that resonated strength and compassion. What changed in their lives? They were now armed with a deep sense of self-respect and worthiness.
5. New lifestyle, refreshed sense of purpose. The study of classic yoga philosophy classes, metaphysical thinking, and research into human physiology grooved new thought patterns into the students heart and minds. It ignited an exploration of new aspects of health, environment, culture, critical thinking, productivity and creativity. What changed in their lives? A renewed motivation was born that was not rooted in short-lived goals but a set axiom that life is this moment of awareness – the NOW…that is, in turn, connected to everything and everyone.
Foto: Nicki Twang