FEBRUARY 2021 Newsletter
Happy Monday & 1st of February!
I would like to share with you my intentions for our practice this month.
At the beginning of this year, I spent some extra time thinking about where we could expand our practice. What mental, physical and emotional qualities, could we cultivate in class? What practices and postures would support this approach ensuring that we enjoy a stronger yoga practice? The following themes were selected for February:
- Mental: Awareness
- Physical: Equilibrium and Balance
- Emotional: Connection
You may ask how we are going to do all this in a month. We are not, but we are going to start the process. Here is how...
If you have been practicing with me regularly, you have often heard me say "work with awareness." This means to be consciously aware of how your body is feeling: its strengths, its limitation, what's comfortable and what's not. Everyones anatomical skeletal system is different and recognising the correct posture is essential in building a strong yoga practice. Reaching an intense stretch without approaching pain is the goal. It's also important to understand what the correct posture for your body is vs. what you think it should look like using a functional approach rather than an aesthetically pleasing approach. This means focusing on what the target areas should be feeling, the stretch or engagement of muscles, versus what you think the yoga posture should look like. Be aware of the intense stretch, but do not go near pain, and if you notice pain, back out.
When you begin practising yoga postures, you typically notice the most obvious sensations first. Over time, you may start to feel what’s going on in other parts of your body, the more subtle sensations. Developing this sensitivity and a higher level of body awareness will allow you to be more precise in your movements (eg is that leg doing what I think it’s doing?). As your awareness increases, you will be able to make micro adjustments, maximising the effectiveness of your practice. Working with heightened focus and precision helps prevent the mind from wandering and supports your work in increasing your mental awareness too. So as we work on the body we also affect the mind.
Physical: Equilibrium and Balance
Learning how much to push or pull is a fine balance. Using awareness, we can recognise if we are pushing too hard or the opposite, hanging out in the more 'lazy' end of the posture. Our goal is to work our bodies in evenness. When you practice I invite you to reflect on what type of person you are. Do you usually push yourself physically and forget about the breathing and calmness? In that case, think about easing off for your practice. On the other hand, are you someone who hangs in the postures without putting too much extra effort? If that is the case see how you feel if you focus a little extra on pushing your body to explore where it can go. Bring awareness to you, to your practice and explore the difference.
Yoga always presents opportunities to learn/appreciate its lessons. Whenever we are challenged, we typically hold our breath in the hopes that it will give us strength. We must remind ourselves that strength is found in breathing. Focusing on evenness and awareness will help us bring our breath back to normal. As much as we fold forward, we balance it out with back bends. As much as we strengthen the muscles, we also stretch them. As much as we push ourselves, we also treat ourselves with care. Our intention is to provide an environment where the body can be relaxed and balanced.
Connection to ourselves is the first step to connecting with others and the outside. How can we do this in yoga you may ask? By tuning in and really connecting to how you feel.
Yoga is about connection. Even its origins from Sanskrit mean 'union.' It is the journey of connecting deeper with oneself and learning to accept the world for what it is. Accept the good and the bad and work through the situations you find yourself in. To practice deeper connection with yourself, others and the world, you will need to move out of your comfort zone. Learn to let go of expectations and allow yourself to experience and learn.
The best way to learn connection with oneself is ultimately meditation. Realistically we will not go from never sitting still to a strong 1 hour daily meditation, however starting with awareness of breath is a great way to begin the process of learning to slow down and tune in. And when you tune in, you connect.
Whether you want to try and tune deeper into your awareness, balance and/or connection through yoga, or simply let go of the day, there is always something to take away from your yoga practice. I look forward to this month's journey with you all.