John came to my yoga wall class completely unaware that he was about to give me the biggest compliment ever. After class, I asked, "how do you feel?" He answered " it was challenging and relaxing at the same time." Best compliment to a yoga teacher ever!
The yoga that I have come to adore is far from the big, showy, hyper flexible photos. It is far from the sweaty workout based flows (although my teacher makes us work harder). The yoga that I love centers the mind. It is challenging and calming at the same time. It balances the sthyra sukham (Strength & Ease) of the Yoga Sutra (my favorite Yoga Sutra Ever). It holds both calm and challenge at the same time. This is part of the magic of a yoga practice. Here are a few ways that you can find the it in your practice.
- Hold the poses for a long time. It did take quite a long time for me to enjoy practicing this way. Maybe the poses aren't quite as big, or you may take a modification halfway through, but this will give you a chance to express the pose more fully.
- Concentrate on one key movement. Maybe you fully root into your hands and feet, taking the time to notice what actions in your legs and arms make a change in your connection to the earth. Maybe you concentrate on hinging at the hips, or keeping your abdominal locks engaged. This can take us out of our heads, and gives you a point of concentration during long holds.
- Use breathwork. Maybe you concentrate on Ujjayi breathing (sounds like Darth Vader) or taking long even breaths to a count of 6-8 in and out. You may play around with extending the pause at the end of the inhale and exhale. The sounds of the world can fade around you as your full focus moves toward your breath.
- Find your Drishti. Drishti, or focused gaze is the key to make balance more achievable and is soothing for the mind. It takes comparison out of the picture (you can't truly keep a focused gaze on one thing while comparing yourself to whoever is on the mat next to you). If you find your mind wandering, remember to find your drishti (find a focal point) .
It takes time and effort to practice in this way. Do not judge yourself if you find your mind wandering, because it happens to everyone. Try to return your attention to the practice. Using one or more of these ideas can help make that concentration a little more achievable. How do you find your focus when your mind wants to wander in class? Where do you find the subtle magic in your yoga practice?
Namaste - Beth