Sunday, May 31, 2015

Where is my mind? Understanding Asana.

Photo by ARMY OF TANKS

Oh my Lord, the universe is great! For an hour now I've been listening to The Pixies, "Where is My Mind"on repeat when I suddenly sit down to write this blog and realize it's the perfect title. Asana has everything to do with where your mind is at and learning how to put it where it isn't. Let me explain.

When most people begin their physical yoga practice (asana), they have very little control over their bodies and very little idea how to find comfort and steadiness in a pose. Since, they have up until then believed they had some authority over their bodies, this can come as a bit of a shock. This inevitable discovery is the reason so many will do everything possible to avoid starting a physical yoga practice even though they know they should. They don't want to look stupid.

The inability to make the body do what we want it to is simply a result of not knowing how to get the appropriate message to the appropriate parts. Sure, we can move our hand to our hip, but how in the world do we release our Splenius Capitis? Yoga gives us the opportunity to travel within our bodies, using our mind. As we explore, we make new connections and bring awareness to parts of ourselves we hadn't been paying attention to. For me it's like going into a dark room and turning on the light, and I've taken to making a game of finding awareness (aka feeling) in new areas of myself in every practice. Eventually, we can have full awareness in each moment. This is presence. Asana is pretty deep.

Photo by ARMY OF TANKS

Each shape triggers different feelings in the body. Some shapes make us feel powerful, some anxious, some vulnerable, and so on. We experience various degrees and layers of feelings from pose to pose, but also from within the same pose day to day and even breath to breath. We may start out a posture with a feeling of dread or desire to leave, but as we remain in that shape breathing and still those feelings pass. Overtime an evenness permeates the practice and spills out into life as our nervous and hormonal systems become trained to choose calm. This choice is reinforced by the positive experience of calm acknowledged and the realization that danger is not in fact there.

I love the ability of asana to dig out stored experiences I haven't allowed to free flow out my body. We all hold and have patterns of holding that don't always serve us. The instinct to grab is there to protect us and should be honored and respected, but that doesn't mean we can't move past instinct into conscious choice. When we are ready, the asana practice gives us a great tool for release. In the beginning there may be a great letting go, but as time goes on each daily practice looks more like a shower, simply removing what dirt might have crept in the day before.

Photo by ARMY OF TANKS

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There's so much to say about this Third limb of yoga which is sometimes sited as the first and which carries all eight limbs with in it.  Please post your thoughts on ASANA all month long on Instagram. Tag me at landyoganyc and hashtag #alleightlimbs for a chance to win a tank by Ekam Inhale!