In yoga we connect back with our body and mind through our focus on the poses (asana) and on our breath.
When we focus on the physical sensations of the body (in asana), or focus on our breath (also in asana), it brings us into the present moment. You may have heard it said that the breath is the closest thing we have to the present moment? So taking a few conscious breaths is a way to come back into your body and your self. When you follow your breath and feel the sensations it creates in your body (eg belly and chest moving in response to your inhale and exhale; air through the nostrils), the mind stays in the here and now; not worrying about what you need to do next or about what went wrong earlier and created some angst in your mind and body.
And you start to become more aware of the connection between your body and your mind. You may notice, this practice slows the mind a little and the body becomes a little more relaxed.
When the mind is busy, the body tends to tighten and hold tension. And when we relax our bodies, the mind tends to calm. This is one of the keys to meditation also – relaxing the body and calming the mind are the active ingredients of meditation.
We start to notice and appreciate the mind body connection which is getting more and more attention in science these days; something the yogis have known for years.
When we come in to the present moment we have an opportunity to connect with our Self, our soul, our spirit. And this is the aim of yoga - to realise our true nature and abide in it – our true Self…. We create space for awareness.
Another way to view the goal of yoga is as a way to bring ourselves into balance – physically in our body, mentally & emotionally in our mind. We do this in the same way – connecting with ourselves through the breath – connecting physical, mental, emotional states.
When we practice yoga we become more aware of our physical bodies, our mental states, our emotional states. And we practice with this awareness we start to become more compassionate and kind.
As we begin to realise our true nature, we begin to appreciate more and more that we are essentially all the same. Judgements may begin to ease and we become more aware we are all navigating this human experience as best we can. We all have cravings, just for different sense pleasures and to varying degrees. And are all susceptible to distraction and avoiding feelings. And we are all doing the best we can, wherever we are at, with what we have. However we are still all different in how we manage and the degrees to which certain cravings and distractions affect us.
So we continue our practice of kindness and compassion this week, as we connect a little more with ourselves and realise our connection with others.
Practicing Metta or Loving Kindness this week. This practice has been scientifically studies and regular practice has proven to have profound benefits on self acceptance and empathy.
An overview of the practice: Bring to mind firstly a person you feel great warmth and love for, then someone you don’t know so well and have feelings of indifference. Next to someone you find challenging (not the most challenging personas you start this practice), and the to yourself. Take your time to bring these people, one by one, to sit with you, in your mind’s eye. You might see them visually or maybe just a sense of the person in front of you or beside you. However it comes to you when you imagine someone in your mind’s eye.
The heartfelt wishes and intentions you send to each of these people are ‘May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you live with ease’. Repeating these phrases three times for each person before moving on to the next.
A good practice ahead of Christmas day towards each of your family and friends you’ll spend time with. And see how your experience of your interactions changes as a result of this compassionate practice.