I haven’t written a blog post for a long, long time and there are many, many reasons for this. But that’s not why I wanted to write this post. I have been mulling over the connection between yoga and the mind, these past few weeks. On the threshold of going out in the world as a teacher, I have been reflecting on what is my Yoga voice? Do I have a philosophy of yoga that I am drawn towards? What do I believe in as a practitioner and as a budding teacher? To state that yoga is more than asana practice is like saying Picasso knows his colors or Rushdie knows his grammar. There are many research studies that focuses on the stress reducing function of yoga and the immunity increasing function of yoga. No, that’s not what I want to focus on for this post, even though studies like these lend credibility to an ancient art and science and makes the practice of yoga a truly integrated mind, body and spirit experience.
The concepts that most resonate with me about the connection between Yoga and the mind, and I am only talking about breath and asana, and not dhyana ( meditation) yet are:
In the Zone: Yoga can get one out of constantly living in one’s mind, or one’s emotions, or one’s thoughts: one is in the moment, bringing awareness to muscular tension and it’s subsequent, careful release. So during the practice, one is in the “zone”. One leaves behind the stress of everyday living, a tough relationship, a hard day at work. All one is focussed on is how does this stretch feel? How can I use my breath to release this tension? I believe that this focus on the present moment increases mindfulness off the mat too. I have noticed that I am calmer and am aware of my trigger points now than ever before.
Balance between tension and release: in almost every asana, as one part of the body is flexed or contracted, another is released. Only now, after a year of yoga, can I appreciate the nuances and the subtle, yet powerful application of this concept. With regards to the mind, as we focus on something, exerting effort, we release something, an emotion that perhaps doesn’t serve us anymore, or a thought process that we struggle with. I know I did. In the beginning of my journey to be a yoga teacher, I struggled with the notion that I couldn’t do many things physically that came relatively easy to many of my peers. Now I have let that go, and I know it’s all a part of my journey and my body has it’s own story to tell. I have released it. Just like asanas release and exert tension purposefully on muscles and joints, breath can be used as a tool for the mind.
Filter, filter, filter: Asanas and breath, when done with awareness can help in filtering remnants of thoughts and emotions, for example, if one is aware about where we hold our tension in our body, is it the shoulders, is it the belly, is it our breath? Where do we hold it? What do we do to relieve this? One can start unraveling the whys and the hows, getting deeper into the Self, which is truly the aim of Yoga.
I believe that I am learning, will always be learning, and the learning will lead me to things that I need to learn more about. Hope to do it in a mindful and conscious way, touching a few lives along the way and helping others learn what they need to learn.