Self-Care for your Subtle Body begins here...
Seasons Change...Yoga Helps
I love the changing seasons! Changes appear in the blink of an eye, and before you know it the world is transformed as if by magic. Diverse wildlife and plants dramatically change in appearance as the temperatures begin to drop. Harvest is right around the corner, orchards are bursting with apples, and rows of pumpkins stand ready for families to claim and haul home. Fields of corn and beans turn from summer green to harvest gold, as wooly caterpillars race across country roads and Monarch Butterflies head back to Mexico. The Laws of Nature are very clear in this regard; with every beginning, there comes an end.
Challenges pop up as we try to slow the natural transitions and nostalgia creeps into our awareness. Change stresses our nervous system, the scale of the change makes all the difference in how we adapt. Small, consistent changes over time, like the changing of the seasons, brings a manageable level of stress that serves to strengthen us. Large, quick changes are more traumatic and leave long-lasting scars. It’s a natural, conditioned defense mechanism that triggers us to fear change. People do not choose to live in fear, they choose the known and comfortable because the unknown outcome of change is scary. In my former life, I traveled the backroads and farm lanes sharing my day with dairy farmers, and the daily expression when considering change was “that’s the way we’ve always done it”. This generational fear of the unknown has hindered the natural progression of the land itself. It isn't just farmers, this innate fear of change is a fundamental aspect of the human experience and it influences every decision we make. In moments like these, I find greater peace by simply allowing the world its forward progress and holding on for the ride; or more eloquently, I go with the flow.
My yoga practice is my saving grace. It helps me to slow down, breathe deeply and be in the moment. In slowing down, I recognize that those season changes unfold over many, many moments. Witnessing the individual moments brings greater awareness and appreciation to each one. Growth happens slowly, one moment builds up and supports the next. Each little action requires its own moment to bloom, and all those little moments build on each other. I call my practice DiscoverME Yoga and each session is a blend of meditation, breath control, mindful movement, and honored pauses. The breath is our anchor. By slowing down each breath we relieve stress, by controlling our breath we soothe our nervous, digestive, endocrine, lymphatic, respiratory, and circulatory systems; just to name a few. Gaining control of your breath is quite the challenge as you begin, and much like the changing seasons, progress happens naturally, one moment at a time.
Life isn’t a race; let’s not rush to reach that finish line. It takes time and practice to build healthier habits. No two people are alike, nor is there a one-size-fits-all magic pill that makes change easier to swallow. Still, there are time-honored steps that can be followed and safe spaces where we can turn our attention inward. So, when you are ready and not a moment before, please consider joining me for a session.
Where to start? Yoga for the self-conscious newbie.
Yoga may appear as one of the most challenging self-care practices one can take up. In the long run, this is a accurate perception; but at the start, it is only the ego that gets in the way. When I say 'ego' I mean that little (loud) voice that questions every move you make, the one voice that is always there to chime in an opinion or judgement of you. You know the voice I'm talking about, the one only you can hear? Most of the time that little voice is pretty smart, a little sarcastic and fairly funny. Other times, not so much. That voice developed and grew as defense mechanism of your nervous system and it is an intracule part of your Fight or Flight response. This little voice is present in every person who first tries yoga and in every person who practices yoga as a lifestyle. The only difference in how these individuals "ego voices" talk to them is the amount of time each person has spent on the mat. The truth about yoga is that every teacher is teaching their own unique style of session and you may not find your teacher at the first session you walk into. So the real challenge of starting a yoga practice is allowing yourself to walk into the unknown, to show up and shut-up that little voice, even if it's only for an hour.
Now, we all understand that there are no guarantees in life; but there is a level of consistency in the yoga practice that allows you to expect certain elements in every session. Because yoga is built around the Subtle Body, I like to think of it as exercise that starts from the inside. I'll go deeper into the Subtle Body at a later time, what I want to share here are the basics of yoga.
Your Breath is EVERYTHING. Every movement, pose, posture, and thought begins with the breath. So, you should expect a significant amount of the session to be spent on bringing your breath under your control. In fact, yoga is going to be one of the slowest exercise practices you can start because there is so much emphasis on how to breath, when to breath and how to move when you breath. For those who exercise to burn calories or get their heart rate up, this slow pace can prove a difficult challenge. BUT, this is all part of the practice and as you grow into it you will begin to feel the strength, stamina, and calming effects of your yoga practice.
Your BONES are the focus. Yes, we exercise for effects it has on our muscles, joints, and flexibility; your bones form your foundation. I like to remind my students; that when form fails, function follows. Much of the yoga practice is centered around the spine and focuses on bringing the body into your proper, natural alignment. You may have noticed some advanced yogis who move with grace, lightness, stellar coordination, and a relaxed, confident posture. This is no accident and they certainly were not born that way. No, it is their practice of putting their bones into proper alignment with every learned pose and flow.
IMPERFECTION is expected! There isn't a soul born that was "good" at yoga when they started. In fact, some of the most renowned teachers were once told they couldn't practice yoga because of their physical inability. It's true; but don't take my word for it. Check out B.K.S. Iyengar. Yes, will fall over at some point, even teachers are unsteady when learning a new transition or pose. Yes, you will struggle to match the teachers breathing, but then you'll learn to trust your own. Yes, you will stretch and strengthen muscles you didn't even know you had and you may feel it the next day. Yes, there will be times times that sitting on the couch is WAY MORE inviting than hauling your butt to a yoga session; but you will feel so much better for getting up and going, for showing up for yourself.
Yoga takes TIME. One session of yoga is simply a way to kill time. One session of yoga per week is a path to a more comfortable life. Two sessions of yoga per week is life changing. The thing about yoga is that you get what you give. So give yourself one yoga session, kill some time and demystify the practice. Give yourself one yoga session per week and the gift of feeling comfortable in your own skin. Challenge yourself to two sessions per week and discover your true abilities, strengthens and grace.
So the next time you think I should try yoga, take action. Make room in your schedule for that first session. Give yourself that gift of time, of experience, of showing up for yourself. Prove to the little ego voice that it can take a break. That you are capable of allowing yourself be in the moment, with your breath and comfortable enough to close your eyes and relax; if only for an hour.
There are many wonderful teachers in our area. If you are not able to make it to one of the DiscoverME Yoga Sessions, let me know and I'll help you find a wonderful teacher.