Yoga is not just a practice of Asanas where you move your body through physical postures.
It is not just a practice of breathing, pranayama, the act of restraining your breath. Yoga is so much more than this... so much more than learning how to float up into your handstand, landing softly in your jump back or how to take flight on your crow pose. It is a study of how your Inner Self connects to and interacts with the world around you.
More and more my practice continues to evolve. These days I still aim to progress through the Asthanga primary series. I still practice twists, hip openers, balance postures and all of the yummy flowy asanas that we enjoy moving our bodies through... but lately I find that my practice is starting to take root, permeating into other aspects of my daily life.
For once... I was able to connect to and re-direct an extremely normal reaction that we all experience at least once in our life.
Anger is a raw, completely natural, human emotion, often experienced deep in our gut which eventually rises up to the surface and can manifest itself in so many ways.
Have you ever noticed how your breathing shifts when you experience anger, or taken notice of how your body physiologically reacts to this emotion? Have you noticed how your muscles react when you are angry? How your shoulders tighten, your heart constricts, and sometimes, depending on the intensity of your emotion, you may even feel changes in your vascular and vestibular body systems as well?
The next time you feel this emotion, take stock of how your body feels, not only while you are angry, but also what happens after your anger has passed.
I have had a lot of little triggers lately to increase the likelihood for insidious frustration that can lead to anger.
From the city pipe works project that has caused a spike in traffic in front of my home causing me to pad extra time into my commute; to the increasing piles of work, less sleep and an overall busy schedule juggling kids' calendars, work, teaching yoga and creating more down time with family while trying to carve some time for personal practice. So when I received a particularly disheartening and frustrating email this morning from my kids' Dad who shares their schedule with me, there it was, the raw emotional response to his message staring me right in the face.
I took a moment to sit with that emotion. I acknowledged it's depth, breathed deeply and decided I would take 10 minutes to sit still with my anger before even writing out a response. I am used to the habitual pattern of react, type and hitting send when it comes to responding to people who are familiar to me.
After taking this time to sit with breath awareness and allow the chatter in my mind to calm down, I realized that in order to best be heard, my tone would need to be reasonable knowing that my ex, also used to patterns we developed over the decade we've known each other, would have brushed off my message if it had any hint of irritation or hostility.
I had altered my habit of read, respond, send and instead came back to his email with a clear head and a more open heart.
I carefully wrote my reply and by the time I was already teaching my first morning class, he had responded to my message. In his message there was understanding and compassion that I was not accustomed to receiving, not because he is not an understanding person, but more likely from his own reaction to the way I replied.
I had broken the cycle of the break down in our communications, and there was another emotion that came flooding in.... Peace. It was only after I had received his message that I realized that yoga has started to creep into the corners of my life and has illuminated those habits, patterns that we can sweep aside without awareness and without consciousness.
This is only a grain of how much power dedication, daily practice and meditation can hold for one's potential in not only creating that Yoga body, but also the Yoga mind.
I invite you to take the time to cultivate your meditation practice today, even if you only have 5 minutes to sit still, those 5 minutes can create an impact on your day. Cultivate space in your Yoga practice not just to get stronger and have a nice derriere (although in the words of my friend Samantha, "a tight derriere is nice too"), but also space for a clear and open mind.
Remember that you don't always need to be on your mat or in savasana to create an environment where you can sit in stillness. Remember to be kind to yourself and that your experience from one meditation will not be the same as the next.
There are many methods you can use to arrive at stillness in your meditation practice; connecting to your breath, a mudra, mantra or visualization. The purpose wherever you are and however you arrive at your meditation is always the same; to let go of some of your day for a little while, to find stillness within your physical body for a little while and to allow your mind to connect to your heart.
I invite you to try and incorporate this the next time you encounter a strong emotion. You may just surprise yourself at how events unfold.