Oh no, it’s holiday time again! I get the feeling that most people in my classes would like them (the classes, not the holidays!) to go on for the whole year without taking a break. However, the breaks and alignment to the school term give my year a structure and framework to work with, which is something I need. I thought this might be an opportunity to give you some holiday ideas over the next couple of blog posts, and to explore what yoga means to you. Yoga is so much more than what we do in the class. Let’s look at the meaning of yoga and how we can use that to bring yoga to life in our everyday living.
In our fast paced Western world yoga has, for many, become an exercise class, something we do to keep fit and flexible. The deeper meaning of yoga is, in essence, union. Yug is the root word of yoga in Sanskrit and literally means ‘yoke or unite’. In its purest essence this refers to the union of your individual consciousness with the consciousness of the Divine. I would like to take this meaning further and explore how we can bring the union or connection of yoga into our everyday life. How can we be more yogic (connected) within our day-to-day activities and what would this look like?
Walking in connection with your body and breath
One of the things I like about the yoga break is the opportunity to step out of the cycle of routine and I guess this might apply to some of you too. It’s a chance to do something else in that time slot other than go to yoga. Take the opportunity to have a break from the class structure and do something meaningful. Weather permitting, it is always refreshing to get outside and go for a walk.
While you’re out, take some of the practice from our class with you: as you walk, notice your physical body and see if you can relax your shoulders and let your arms swing naturally. How is your breath? Can you breathe more fully as you walk and perhaps count your steps with your breath? For example, as you walk you could breathe in for the count of four steps, then breathe out for four steps. As you get more familiar with this you can start exploring the equal ratio breathing or sama vritti pranayama, the four stage breath that includes the pause at the end of the in and out breath.
If at any point you get out of breath, stop and go back to an easier ratio or count that worked for you until you can do that without getting breathless. Practice this walking and breathing for the first few minutes of your walk, then let it go.
Walking in connection with your heart and mind
Once you have walked and practiced some conscious breathing, notice how your heart feels and what mood you are walking with – just as we do in class when we check in with these layers of our being. Bring this awareness to your walk and acknowledge how you feel. See if, as you walk, you can notice more about the environment you are walking in. Bring in your senses and notice what you see, smell, hear, taste and feel as you walk. This will help if you have an especially busy mind. You may even like to choose a colour and notice all the things around you as you walk of that colour. This helps keep you present and you will be surprised what you notice that you may never have seen before.
Take an opportunity to stop along the walk and if you can, take your shoes off. Yes, that’s right! Take them off and get those divine feet in direct contact with our beautiful Mother Earth and let her feel you as you feel her. Stand and pause: a moment of reflection as you feel into your heart and notice, make a deeper connection with your sacred heart as you go a little deeper inside. Take the time to connect to a higher part of yourself. This doesn’t have to take long; a brief but potent pause to check in through your heart and maybe give thanks for the opportunity while being open to any messages that are waiting for this moment to get your attention.
Connection to a rich life
My wish for you is that you fall in love with being connected to nature and walking. That you fill your lungs with fresh prana, breathe out any stale and stagnant air and connect deeply to life and this precious day you have to enjoy in all its aspects of beauty, magnificence, rawness, messiness, happiness, sadness, and everything in between. It’s all these feelings that make life rich. Let’s connect deeply as we do in class, out in nature on a walk.