This is Part Two of my Mothers series of guest posts. You can find part one here: Guest Post: Introduction to Ashtanga Yoga – Part 1. I can relate a great deal to the theme in this post and can offer only a few small pieces of advice on methods I use myself to accept and let go of the sometimes overwhelming feelings brought up through yoga, meditation or just life in general. Like many others, I’m guilty at times of racing through life at a frantic pace burying feelings and the deeper thoughts in my mind. Sometimes when I slow down, allow my thoughts to settle and put aside the day to day inconsequential moments feelings can hit me like a tonne of bricks in the chest.
Generally when I am feeling overwhelmed, prior to sitting down on the yoga mat or meditation cushion I take an extra few moments to set my intention for the session. While this is a standard routine and normally consists of a few short whimsical sentences along the lines of “calm the mind, find my centre, treat my body and soul with loving kindness”. When I am feeling sad or angry I make the effort to include a little extra compassion, forgiveness or joy into my practise.
Before your next practise perhaps consider extending some of these feelings and intentions based on your current emotional and mental state.
Sadness ~ Joy
Anger ~ Forgiveness
Fear ~ Comfort
Weakness ~ Strength
Doubt ~ Peace
Insecurity ~ Confidence
Instability ~ Balance
Jealousy ~ Compersion
Apathy ~ Compassion
Constraint ~ Freedom
Irritated ~ Patience
Emptiness ~ Fulfilment
The second thing I’ve found that helps to let go of strong thoughts making room for a balanced and meaningful mindset is dedicating my practise to someone or something. At the end of class, whether it be a great practise or an absolute struggle from start to finish, I always try to dedicate the love, compassion, effort and time I’ve invested over the past half hour, hour and a half, or however long, to people in my life I feel deserve it. Usually I dedicate my practises to my nearest and dearest, my partner, family, grandparents and friends. Even myself if I feel like I am in need of a little self love. However on days where I come across someone seemingly troubled, perhaps even a little bitter I extend the same love and compassion to them, hoping somehow the universe delivers it to them.
During the last twelve months my husband and I have gone through some personal emotional highs and lows as everyone does at some point in their life. Coupled together with business and financial commitments can sometimes be stressful and one begins to wonder if there is a way out of the clouded mess or is it just how things are meant to be, living on an emotional roller coaster? These difficult times are often made clearer and put into perspective with a lot of reassuring self talk, long beach walks, communication and making a point of spending quality time with each other. We often need to remind ourselves how blessed we are to have a beautiful supportive family and how truly thankful we are to be able to live the life that we have and enjoy and take knowledge in the fact that through the journey of life we have each other.
It hasn’t taken me 50 years to realise this! But, today after our second session of Ashtanga Yoga I felt somewhat overwhelmed and perhaps a little sad that we can allow the low points in our life to take control and forget about the things that are important to us. How easy it can be when the mind takes over to slip in a state of negativity and hopelessness. And, as our instructor pointed out today the mind is a powerful thing. I found today the art of meditation and Yoga can act as an outlet and release of stress and tension in the mind, a state of mind where you can find peace for just a short amount of time.
Today we worked through five sun salutations and on to the primary series and finally the finishing sequence. Since I hadn’t practiced during the week I was pleasantly surprised that my movements through the program were not as stiff. My flexibility had improved slightly and my balance had also. I even mastered the cross over leg position (or half lotus) that we learnt last week. I have remembered enough of the sequences now to actually practice at home.
During the first sequence the instructor guided us on a one to one. It was really great to have that direction. I was able to correct a couple of movements that actually made a lot of difference. It also reinforced the importance of listening to your body. Let your body tell you what it can do and not stretch it beyond its limits. It will take time, sometimes years to achieve some of the movements but it is possible and it requires patience.
Once again I found myself really concentrating on the breathing. The breathing style used in Ashtanga Yoga is referred to as “free breathing with sound” or “normal breath with free flow”. This breathing is characterized by a relaxed diaphragmatic style, producing an ocean sound. It requires the tongue to be rolled to the back of the throat to produce this sound. Throughout the practice, this specific breathing style is maintained in alignment with movements. The steady cycle of inhales and exhales provides the practitioner with a calming, mental focal point.
Like I said before I felt a little out of sorts after, quietly proud of myself for feeling far more agile than last week but also disappointed that I can waste energy on feelings that have a negative effect on the mind and body. I need to make a conscious effort to free my mind and I can already see that Ashtanga Yoga gives me the opportunity to do just that. I am already looking forward to week 3.