A friend recently shared a blog with me called Yoga Clichés that Must Die. ~ Maya Georg
Below are a few of the most common clichés I have heard through the years…and why we must never, ever buy into them.
Listen to Your Body.
If I listened to my body I would smoke four packs of cigarettes a day, drink a fifth of vodka, and eat nothing but chocolate ice cream as I lay on my couch.
Our bodies are creatures of comfort and routine. While it is true that our body is one of the very few things in this world we have some control over, the reality is we have all been betrayed by our body (think sneezes and gas).
Our body can only be mastered through discipline. No one ever spontaneously thinks: “Gee! I think I’ll sit absolutely still for an hour and contemplate the universe!” That’s why yoga, regardless of whether it is asana, jappa, or meditation, is called a practice.
I not only disagree with this comment but I MUST respond to it as it is central to my teaching and is the very idea of yoga. Self Awareness is not only the key to Self care but is the fifth Niyama, Isvarapranidhana (observances toward our selves). It is about the quality of intention that we bring to our actions, to our asana practice and to our lives. There is joy and freedom in being open and aware to all that is and that could be. It is when we are Body unaware that we are betrayed, but not by our body, by our mind. We are not trying to master the body, but the mind. When we try to master the body, what ever that really means, we are more likely to push beyond the limits of the body and injure ourselves.
How many times have you been driving down the freeway only to suddenly become aware and have no idea where you are. Or wake up one morning to discover the ugliest bruise on your body and have no idea what you did. Lack of awareness is the culprit, not paying attention.
Next to the breath, awareness has been the biggest gift of my practice. As a teacher the hardest students to guide in a practice are those that see every sensation as pain and those that see every sensation both good and painful as the means to an end. As you move the brain is sent a host of sensation but often it takes an injury to awake and be aware of that part of the body.
It is not our Body that is a creature of habit, or that is betraying us to believe that our vices or movement patterns are healthy and making us happy, it is our mind that prevents us from listening to the wisdom of the body.
When I first began teaching one of my students had an awakening of consciousness in her hands and feet. She said she did not realize how unaware and disconnected from her arms and feet she was, always just felt tall and lanky. Overly self conscious yet unconscious. What a beautiful gift she gave herself just by awakening and connecting to her hands and feet. A little less body shame as she became aware and grateful of her hands and feet. A practice of awareness is a practice in gratefulness, as well as gracefulness.
Most injuries occur not while we are in the asana, but while entering and exiting each pose. As you come to the mat set an intention to awaken the consciousness in different parts of your body. Be mindful of the transition between each asana, slow down a bit and be open as you not only explore new ways to go into and out of each asana, but repeat each transition, slowly and mindfully.
Explore each asana opening to the wonders of this body. Instead of directing your attention to the intense stretch, bring awareness to your hands or your heal. What are you feeling there or are you striving to hard that you are unable to explore sensation else where. If so, back out of the pose and allow your awareness to go explore. Once you get into each asana take time to just be in the pose and explore movement and sensation.
If you find yourself getting restless or bored as you repeat a transition slowly or several times, play with redirecting awareness in unusual places, maybe the space between the fingers, the tip of the big toe or the left ear. How easy is it for you to feel, really sense these areas of the body. This is a great exercise for helping to expand your conscious awareness, to move beyond the lies of the mind and really get in touch with the wisdom of the body. It is through this practice of listening to the body that you will find greater joy and ease as you move thru your practice.
As you prepare to leave the mat, remember that our consciousness is enclosed in our physical body, it is often just asleep and unaware. With practice you can begin to feel the conscious awareness with out movement, with out pain. Maybe notice the texture of the sheets surrounding your body when you awake in the morning, or the tickle of your hair on the nape of your neck. The next time you wash the dishes feel the running water move thru your fingers.
Thru this awareness even the most mundane of tasks can become alive with sensation and awareness and joy.
Start each morning opening your eyes to a world of sensation, the awareness of the breeze in your hair, the vibration of song in your ear, the sight of the flowers in your yard and the taste of every morsel of food. With mindfulness you open your eyes to a sensational YOU! Learning to listen to the wisdom of the body is not only empowering, but healing. Know one knows your body better then you, it is when teachers try to force their ideals of how a pose should look as opposed to how a pose should feel that the student runs risk of injury. Give yourself permission to look beyond the ideal expression of the asana, and find your ideal expression by moving beyond the ego, beyond the mind and into the body.
See You on the mat!
sense, feel, aware, open, explore, allow. gently, slowly, awaken, surrender, ease, detect, desire, enjoy
The second of the 8 limbs of yoga are the
five internal practices of Niyama (observance). Niyama can be described as the rules that need to be observed by individuals, on a more personal level.