I believe that yoga is a very gentle, personally powerful, and spiritual thing to take part in. Traditional yoga which dates back before 500 BCE was of physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines from Hinduism and Buddhism. When done in traditional ways with focus on breath within the poses, as well as holding difficult positions, combined with meditation at the end can give you an overall sense of bliss.
Much of modern yoga has eliminated some sacred rituals that take place within a true yogic practice and maybe you’ve taken a class at the gym only to feel that something was missing. Or maybe you don’t know what you are missing by practicing yoga in it’s full form. Either way, there is something to be said about using yoga as a way to go within yourself, know yourself, and heal yourself.
Over the 20 years I have had a home yoga practice I’ve learned just a handful of challenging poses, and I mostly stick with my sun salutation sequences that seem to maintain fitness in my entire body quite well. I have learned to adapt this routine by holding poses longer, deepening them or adding some simple new things to the flow. I have no desire at this time to do headstands or curl up into a pretzel. There is tremendous discipline in that though and I honor those that choose to practice this way, but I love the daily simple maintenance from my yoga practice. Over the years I’ve added my own flavor to my fitness routine that has keep it simple, yet given me some unique creative expression.
I attribute my deep sense of mind/body awareness to my yoga practice. Yoga teaches us to focus on our breath while we hold each pose. By doing this we can feel when our muscles loosen up just enough so we can sink further into the pose. This relaxing of muscles has taught me to listen to my body and to work with it, and it has been especially helpful during my three plus years of a Lyme disease journey.
There are 3 unique ways you can use your yoga practice to get further in touch with not only your body, but your spirit as well.
1. Don’t Try to Control Your Thoughts
Yoga is very meditative, right? So it stands to reason that you would want to quiet your mind. There is a lot of value to having a quiet mind but it is one of the things many people struggle the most with. I have done many a yoga session where my mind just races constantly no matter how much I try to quiet it. While going through poses and stretching your body, act as an observer to your thoughts. Let them all play out. If you’ve had a bad day and you’re angry at your boss, let all those thoughts come through you and out of you as you stretch your muscles. Don’t hang onto any one of them for too long, don’t obsess and by all means don’t judge any of it. Let your thoughts come and go, come and go, come and go. Keep stretching while using your breath and holding poses, but let your mind run. Once you feel sufficiently empty of your worries and your body is loose and relaxed from exercise, then lay down in Corpse pose to float for a few minutes. Relish in the peaceful river that your mind now may be, then sit up in Lotus or Half Lotus to give gratitude up to the powers that be, and set your intentions for the day.
I have worked out many problems on my yoga mat, I have found forgiveness for myself and others there, as well as receiving many answers about my life. I have done angry yoga before and judged myself for not doing it “right” but once I realized that by the end of my workout I wasn’t feeling angry anymore, I figured that this was perfectly okay.
2. Incorporate Intuitive Movement
First I’d like to say that any time you veer away from specific exercises that you do so very carefully. If you have injuries or are out of shape then take things slowly and LISTEN to your body. There is a difference between moving in a way that is good for your body and moving in ways that put your joints and ligaments at risk.
Turn on some tunes and then use some basic yoga poses to slowly move, sway and dance in. For instance, I flow into and out of Warrior I and Warrior II with the music so it is more of a dance. Once your body connects to the music you may find, with some practice, that your body will tell you where it feels good to go. I often use my sore muscles as a way to direct me into movements that I can feel will stretch them or make them stronger. Consider faster music beats to bump and bounce to while you stretch and love your Earthly vessel. Movement like this can turn into something very primal and cathartic if you let it.
3. Unity Meditation
This quick meditation will send out vibrations of gratitude and love as you focus on cherishing all the wonderful energy around you while sharing your own light with Heaven and Earth. At the end of your session while you sit in Lotus pose, take all those wonderfully powerful and relaxed feelings you now have and get them moving. Start by taking your arms out to your sides and “scooping” up all the wonderful things in the world while moving your arms up to “scoop” out all the blessings from Heaven/Space/Creation and bring them down into Prayer pose with your hands together at your heart space. Do this twice more while focusing on feeling all the good things that Heaven and Earth have to offer as being something inside of you that you can carry into your day. Then do the reverse. Start with your hands at your heart in Prayer pose and take all of your gifts, abilities and wonderful attributes and give them up to Heaven in gratitude while you reach for the sky. Bring your arms down, imagine sharing all of these things about yourself with the World to finish with your hands again at your heart. Make sure your arms are out as straight as can be and that you feel energy coming out of your fingertips. Do this twice more so you’ve done each exercise three times a piece, then “Namaste,” and close your practice.
Consider using your own creativity to adapt exercises and add some fun to your yoga movement.