When I think back to the beginning of my practice with yoga, one of the things that it took me a while to figure out is that the potential behind yoga asana (a.k.a.- physical practice) takes time to surface.
This is so important to realize.
I feel so strongly about this that it was my immediate go-to as the first topic I would share via this physical practice blog.
Yes, you may be thinking “Well…duh, that’s super obvious Katie.” But I’m not talking about the ability to touch your toes, or perform inversions worthy of Cirque de Sole. Those things take time too, don’t get me wrong, but I’m talking about the impacts of yoga asana on our holistic well-being, not just the physical health aspects of the practice.
When you hear about yoga helping you to reach a state of flow, helping you to quiet the mind, to find a state of inner peace, to connect with your breath and simply exist in your body without all the inner commentary– this is the potential I’m talking about.
I often have conversations with people who have tried yoga and said it just didn’t work for them because they aren’t able to relax in class. I want to tell them that it is just a part of the process! It takes time.
The most basic reason is that it takes time for us to learn the poses. We cannot truly sink into our practice and connect inward when we are looking around trying to figure out what the heck half moon means, let alone the Sanskrit name ardha chandrasana.
It also takes time for us to learn our bodies. When we look around the room to figure out what to do, we are seeing other people’s bodies in a posture. We cannot experience what it is like to be in another person’s body, we can only experience what it is like to be in OUR body. We may feel in better alignment in our unique body by using a yoga prop like a block.
As we learn the postures, we can find increasing comfort and ease in our movement. We know what the general shape of warrior two pose is, so our need to look around the room goes away. We can now close our eyes and see what it feels like. We can notice where the breath flows. We can stop listening as much to the yoga teacher, and instead listen to ourselves. This is when we tap into that state of flow.
It doesn’t happen overnight. It is gradual. It is special. It changes every time we come to the mat. As we take away that outer layer of stimulation, we can explore deeper and discover an inner quiet.
I’d like to emphasize that YES – we can attend an occasional asana practice and it will be a wonderful experience. We’ll go home feeling nice and open and stretched out and likely pretty chill. But consistency in our practice is what leads us to something deeper.
Want to try exploring this?
Consider moving through a simple flow of just two or three postures. Take time to learn the shape of the poses. Let yourself notice how it feels to be in stillness in each pose, and then let yourself notice how it feels to move between them. Whether you are new to yoga or have been on your mat so many times you have lost count, this can be an incredible practice.
Here is an example to get you started: come to a warrior two pose, inhale to reverse your warrior two by sweeping your front arm back in space, and exhale back to warrior two. Let it be this simple!
Give yourself time with the simplicity of the movement.
Let it settle in a bit deeper.
In your warrior two, check in with your feet and notice a grounding energy in the body from the hips down. Next, check in and notice the energy shooting out through the fingertips as you bring the heart space wide. From here, feel the uplifting energy from the base of the spine to the crown of your head, which extends tall toward the sky. With this level of awareness, breathe in and reverse your warrior. Let it take the whole inhale. As you flip your front palm to reverse, notice the openness of this small gesture. Even this can be a welcoming motion to receive. As your arm reaches back, feel the side of the rib cage expand. Find length from the crease of your hips to your uplifted fingertips. Notice where the breath flows in this new shape. Exhale to bring yourself back to warrior two again. Let it take the whole exhale. No need to rush. Does this warrior two feel different? Give yourself some time to flow between these postures. Consider setting yourself a timer so that you can have a few minutes to explore, without needing to worry about how much time has passed. As you move, close your eyes. Notice the transition between postures, in unison with your inhales and your exhales and the small pause inbetween.
Play with the same flow for a few days. When you’re ready, consider exploring a similar concept between two or three different postures. Greet your body in the new shapes you show it. Let it be simple and don’t worry so much about how it looks on the outside. How does it feel? Don’t be discouraged if it changes or feels more difficult one day than it did the day before. When we notice these changes, we are connecting.
When you come to yoga, give it time to come to you.
First, we learn the practice.
Then we learn how to embody the practice.
Then we learn how to embody our body.
Big love to you, and enjoy that time on your mat!