Before practice, us teachers attempt to present a reasoning behind connecting with the breath. We only have about 5 minutes max to accomplish this heavy loaded task while also fitting in good reasons to be in a hot studio trying to convince the clients they’re not crazy for trying this.. So, I thought i’d take some time and extend the reasoning here.
There are endless reasons to make it to your mat. Every day, the practice is different. Every practice changes from one to another as your body responds to the daily demands placed on it from the outside world. None the less we are able to set aside time to connect the mind to the body through our practice. However, we all reach that point by taking different paths to get there.
Coming to the studio, setting your mat down, and settling into child’s pose we find comfort and peace mentally and physically by connecting with our stillest selves. We can work on something specific to let go in the body here (muscle aches, tension) or something less tangible that is affecting our body (relationships, work). Coming to stillness we are able to practice bringing awareness to the true self in the present moment to let go of these external factors. We come to the present moment- the only place where life is happening- to let go.
The true self means dropping the “ego”. The true self is who we are without the labels. No identification, no associations outside the studio room matter. All that matters when practicing your yoga is the concentration on the mind fluctuations. We are better able to control the fluctuations of the mind by focusing attention on the breath rather than our thoughts.
It is almost impossible think about “nothing” as many yoga instructors may have mistakenly instructed to do. Our brain is active, live, and functioning. Thoughts will come. It is our job while practicing yoga to not identify with the thoughts as they may shift our perspective of the present moment. Become an observer of each thought. Do not attach, do not formulate an opinion on it, do not associate with it. Instead, work to ease them away by shifting the attention back to the breath every time the mind is found wondering.
When the mind is still, connect with the sensations in the body. Bring awareness to the fingertips, the toes, areas often disregarded, and you will find steadiness of the mind. External factors discipate as you focus on how you physically feel. Spend mental energy in the yoga room on yourself (where no one can call you selfish!)
You bring awareness to the breath, to calm the body in the present moment, then move with that peace from pose to pose with grace, concentration, and acceptance. We begin practice stilling the mind to let go of that ego and practice our asanas (poses) with the true self. That is why yoga asana practice is a “moving meditation”.
Let’s be honest, however. Even though we made it to the studio (the hardest part of the practice) we fight the calmness our body is craving; We don’t want to let go of those to do lists. We want to mentally be stimulated by our environment to feed that ego. We want to be productive human beings.
“I must remember what errands have to get done today!”
“After practice, make sure you call that person back!”
We make it difficult to let go of how we identify ourselves…
“I need to wipe my sweat, fix my hair, and pull up my shorts before this next pose”
“If I lost five more pounds, I’d be better off”
“I deserve that bonus I got last week”
We sometimes judge others…
“I am more flexible than her”
“How dare they put their mat in front of mine…”
“They look better in that pose than I do”
We lose sight of what yoga is all about by allowing the brain to fire randomly- looking around in class, comparing yourself, judging your body or your neighbors practice. Without spending mental energy on the self, the stillness, acceptance, calmness, and non judgement we are teaching the brain to keep firing these unnecessary thoughts towards others and the self.
Yoga is not about aesthetics. It is not about flexibility, or how you look in a pose. Yoga is not about how may classes you can fit into your week. Yoga is not about simply loosening the body.
Yoga is about the journey in life you are on. How you approach anything in life is yoga. Yoga is about letting go of tension (physically, mentally, spiritually), and instead opening the mind and heart to everything the outside brings. By practicing yoga, you spend time with the true self and bring awareness of the steadiness of the breath. Let go of the small things by practicing letting go in the studio room with the poses.
Yoga is a way of life, not just a practiced routine.. To accept life with non attachment to material things, to practice non judgement towards the self or others, to drop the ego, and spend time with the breath in the present moment we gain awareness of our ability to create a bliss sensation in any circumstance. Bliss is defined as “a state of perfect happiness, typically so as to be oblivious of everything else, without effort”.
We soak up the peace we work hard to find within ourselves at the studio in our savasanas, and extend that peace to everything we encounter in our daily lives. Those little things seem smaller after realizing how good it feels to connect with your own energy that is relentlessly satisfied.
So we start class “simple and easy in child’s pose”. We start with pranayama breathing to connect the mind to the body, to let go of tension, and gain awareness of our energy in the present moment not attached to or judging a single thing,
We find bliss with in ourselves. We strengthen and lengthen the body and the mind by first, coming to stillness.