How well do you know yourself? Can you recognise stress or illness in your body and mind, both of which can be thought of as dis-ease?
When we practice yoga, sound therapy or meditation mindfully we are trying to tune-in, to really experience the sensations in the body, as well as the processes or stories in our heads, so that we can learn about our body, mind and breath.
When we tune-in to our body, mind and breath on a regular basis we start to build a strong, intuitive and deep understanding and awareness of how everything feels when there’s peace, ease and flow without tension. This then helps us to recognise when there is tension impeding our flow or ease so that we can take steps to find ease again.
Too often in our busy lives we accept tiredness, sluggish digestion, tense shoulders, shortness of breath and all manner of ailments that signify less than optimal health. Before I found yoga I spent several years working 14 hour days, sleeping for 4 or 5 hours and commuting, while thinking I was healthy. I wasn’t healthy, I had just forgotten what healthy felt like.
My yoga and sound therapy practices see me giving myself a daily check-up to spot any changes. A regular practice spots tiredness, tension, judgement, attachment etc. so that I can take steps to bring back ease and flow before I forget what they feel like.
Here are some tips for how to check-in with your health, if you come to yoga class with me you’ll notice how integral these e,events are to our yoga practice....
1: Focus on the breathe - feel the breathe enter the nostrils and travel down the throat, into the heart and ribs cage and down to the belly. Really watch the body respond to the breath. Is the breath slow, even and deep, or shallow, fast and erratic? Can you bring a more calming breath in?
2: Focus on the body - feel how you are holding your body. Is the jaw clenched? Are the shoulders closed and up by the ears or rolled forward? Can you soften the jaw, roll the shoulders down and back, lift the heart and lengthen the neck? How’s the digestive system feel? Is there an opportunity to soften, take slower, deeper breathes to calm the digestive system.
3: Focus on the mind - are you able to focus on the present, your immediate surroundings, or did you struggle to tune in with your breath and body? Are you replaying a situation from the past about which you don’t feel at ease?
Or are you projecting into the future in a way that causes physical, emotional or mental tension? If so examine on,y how to move forward positively. What can you do and if you can’t influence the future
Have fun and good luck tuning-in.
Mindfully sitting by a fjord in a Danish friend's garden I spotted this lovely dandelion. I was struck by how this dandelion illustrated the importance of the teachings in yoga to be strong, flexible and deeply rooted. Like this dandelion which bends with the wind.
If he wasn’t flexible he would snap.
Without deep roots he’d blow away.
If he was weak he would be blown over onto the ground.
We all get blown around in life.
The winds of change are inevitable....
Sometimes it's a quick gust requiring us to change plans, such as a cancelled train or a traffic jam making us miss a meeting.
Sometimes it’s a light pleasing breeze, such as bumping into an old friend and an impromptu coffee .
Other times it’s cold, harsh and forceful gale threatening to knock us off our feet and definitely requiring us to change course.
Yoga teaches us to that to live happily and peacefully we need to react to these winds of change by being like the dandelion...
Flexible - Yoga teaches that we should remain flexible. That we shouldn't be attached to the course we thought we were on. We are taught that this attachment is the cause of suffering.
We should instead be open and flexible, accepting that things change and we should just roll with those changes. If we accept that we're going to miss that meeting and welcome the extra hour we have spare to enjoy a pot of tea, a walk in an unknown place savouring the sunlight and the air, or reading a book we will be much happier than seething at the delay. I love traffic jams as I get to sing along to more music.
Strong - Yoga teaches us to have inner strength so that we’re not flattened by the winds of change. This inner strength is deeply connected with being rooted. It doesn't mean not having a cry or not asking for help, quite the opposite. To me it means that we have the mental strength to not react in a patterned way due to assumptions or societal constructs, but instead choosing to act in a way that is consistent with your long term happiness.
That might mean instead of seething about a missed meeting thinking through the options and choosing to conference call instead. It also means to me having the strength to know when to cry to release tension and then to stop crying and move on, and knowing when to ask for help.
Rooted - Yoga teaches us to be deeply rooted in our inner peace so that we aren’t uprooted and feel bereft, we remain like anchored ships, flexible enough to bob about but rooted. Like the dandelion.
If we practice connecting with our body and breath on a deep level daily we start to feel the truth of our existence which is pure love and joy. Once we're connected with this missed trains, plumbers that don't turn up, jobs we don't get, house sales that fall through simply don't matter much at all.
So instead of fighting the wind, be strong and remain rooted but be flexible bend and move with the wind. Next time you're in a traffic jam, turn up the radio and be like the dandelion - sing out loud ❤️