Trusting the journey: Balancing the edgePosted: Updated:
I hear it every day: "I have terrible balance, I just cannot do those balancing poses." Well, this is the exact reason why it's important to practice a little each day. Unlike sports, yoga is intended to be a non-competitive practice. A practice is a place you get to let the continuous unfolding be revealed without expectations. This makes it so much more enjoyable, for when a posture you have been working on mastering comes, it is often a surprise! It is inspiring and it doesn't always happen. These are moments of tasting the fruit of your labors. It is all worth the effort; the fruits are very sweet.
Some may practice for years, only to be able to touch their toes. It is no less a miracle than any other beautiful form unfolding. It is a fascinating journey to watch happen. Yoga is a journey for those who seek to be fascinated, not only by their own growth, but by life's experiences. Joy's, sorrows, defeats and victories, this is the place where one begins to see clearly. We cannot have one without the other, it is all a gift. Some come to the practice with experience in other forms of exercise and find it a natural unfolding, without much effort. Sometimes it is those who don't need to effort much in the body, that must move deeper into stillness, calm the chattering mind and learn to balance in the ares that cannot always be seen at first glance. The intention is not to get somewhere other than where we are right now, yet as we look at where we are, we become more aware. We see where our blind spots may be. And when we don't, it's not time for that part of our unfolding. One cannot force a rose to bloom. Seeing perfection in the form that is growing, expanding and shedding deeply held tensions or old negative beliefs is just as big a miracle as touching ones toes.
Some may say, "Huh, you mean the goal is...no goal, well that sounds silly. If I want results, I need a goal." Living in a culture where we are inundated with icons and ideals, it can be challenging to put down the images we are often convinced of, thinking if only we were "more" or had more of one thing and less of another. The journey of yoga teaches one to be present to "what is," right now. The "fight or flight," known as the sympathetic nervous system (the nervous, anxious, stressful, and non-compliant side of ones ability to focus) shuts down. Yoga "reboots" your system and turns the inner lights on. The parasympathetic nervous system stills and quiets the mind, bringing the body and the emotions back into balance. One finishes the practice feeling lighter, more restored and balanced. This largely effects the quality of ones life, at work, at play and all the time. Yoga gives us the keys to unleash our true power and empowerment; living in a state of ease. When one is in a state of yoga, the path of least resistance is experienced. Work is less effort and play is more playful!
Even yoga, has been used as a means for mass media to represent an inner utopia that may be challenging for new and old yoga students to understand. The key is to remember that we did grow up moving around with endless amounts of energy and the brain produced more than enough serotonin, the "feel good" chemical your brain creates when you exercise regularly. Yoga is an adventure that leads you to the center of your own being, shines the light on your own thoughts, wakes you up to the sensations in the body and provides a clearing for the mind. With practice, one becomes much like a gardener on his own well tilled soil. He knows the plot of land well. He has gone over and over the fields, not just with his mind, but with his hands and his feet, his heart and his spirit. The gardener( much like our "Dave the Garden Guy" here on channel 3), is a pro at seeing clearly, what the garden needs to keep it well maintained. He's constantly feeling, and interacting with a live, growing community of species. He knows that there will always be the days to pull the weeds, days to fertilize the soil, days when the rain comes and it's time to spend time in doors planning next seasons crops. This is an ongoing cycle and the beauty is, when we trust the journey, even when we don't know exactly how things might go. One becomes flexible in nature and attitude. Instead of focusing on what is not there, we focus on what is available. We have enough in the garden to work with and we will feast on what is in season.
When it comes to your yoga practice, where you are is the perfect place to be. This is the season you have to work with. Yoga can be a delicious and fun journey. One must take it slow and steady, be willing to play and most of all, get back up when you fall! Falling isn't failure. Falling is learning the art of compassion, playfulness, and surrender. Failure is falling without ever attempting to get back up and try again. It is the things we are most afraid of, that are our biggest tests in life. When we can face our fears and trust the edge, we have made strides toward greatness. I see every practice as a service to the Self and to humanity. When I feel well, I live well, I laugh often and I love much. This is is a service to all. You deserve to feel great, this is a gift to all whom you interact with. When you smile, so does the world. Start where you are, a little each day. Attempt new postures, let go of any need to "get it right." Learn the art of falling and most of all...learn to laugh. This is when the practice becomes a ritual of joy. Laughter is one key ingredient in learning to art of balancing at the edge and enjoying the journey. If we never risk falling, or loosing our balance in a posture, we'll never learn the art of strengthening in the places we are week. Learning to fly is in part, learning to fall.
The beauty of yoga, is that it can be customized for any body type and even a beginner can modify postures to support where they are today. My favorite classes to teach, are those where all levels are participating. These classes remind us all of how wide the spectrum is and how to reach one's potential today. One of the keys, when learning something new or working on something that's a little bit more challenging, is learning the art of preparation. One must be willing to take the time to learn the first steps, before adding on and taking on the more difficult variations or modifications. Depending upon one's experience and background, one might even want to work with a yoga instructor or trainer a few times one-on-one before taking regular classes. This supports knowing one's body well enough to make the necessary adjustments along the way; supporting ease in alignment and transitions between poses.
Practicing regularly is essential to experiencing the lasting benefits of the practice. I recommend a minimum of two-three days per week (for those who don't also have another fitness routine. In order for the practice to be effective and support feeling more alive, alert, awake, healthy, and fit, one must begin to make it a regular habit. I suggest 5-6 days of exercise a week. It usually takes 21 days to make or break a habit. What's most important, is that the practitioner listens to their body's needs, resting when necessary. Also, there's quite a big difference between feeling tired and feeling sluggish. When one is tired, it is often due to an exertion of effort or lack of sleep. A feeling of sluggishness is more apt to be due to poor food choices, lack of exercise, or stress. What's so amazing about getting onto the yoga mat, is that it doesn't take long for one to feel recharged and energized by just a few postures. Balancing postures are great for both grounding and energizing. If one is tired from working at a desk or in a stressful environment at work, a few balancing postures can be used to help support feeling more awake and attentive.
Establishing balance in the body is not only important to support strength and grace in movement, but is so effective in supporting the inner balance we often seek to find. Cultivating strength means taking on the challenge of moving in new and different ways, while also keeping proper form and alignment. This segment focuses upon strengthening through balancing what we call "the edge," while maintaining awareness about keeping the body injury free. To be playful and practice listening to the body's needs, is the balance of being both mindful and compassionate with oneself. One learns to trust the process and let go of the immediate results. Yoga is the place where one can allow the moment to be enough. This is the journey of the yoga practitioner on and off the mat. Get ready to experience one breath of balance at a time; balancing at your edge and trusting the journey. This is when we begin to spread our wings and fly!
See you around the bend!