This Week in Yoga: Enough

Happy Kindness Week, Yogis!

There are pink and red hearts everywhere I look.  Valentine Boxes in various stages of construction are scattered throughout the dining room.  We even turned our Christmas Tree into a Valentine’s Day Tree.  My kids are practicing random acts of kindness this week at school; they are encouraged to notice kindness in all its manifestations.  I’m encouraging them to be kind to themselves, too.  20190210_2138322584084601616207001.jpgAnd you know, that’s not always easy for us, as adults. Metta Meditation can really help.  One form of this practice, also known a Loving-kindness meditation, begins by offering love, compassion, or kindness, safety & health toward yourself, then toward ever-widening circles of people, such as family, friends, village, community, and so on, until you finally extend this benevolence toward the entire world.

Another way of practicing kindness toward ourselves is — you guessed it — on our yoga mat; and I don’t only mean that getting on your mat to practice is a gift to yourself and a way to perform self-care, though it is.  I’m actually referring to the practice of acknowledging yourself as being enough, doing enough, and accomplishing enough.  We all hold ourselves to unrealistic expectations at times, sometimes always; and often, we set higher expectations for ourselves than we would anyone else.  So practicing seeing ourselves as enough can be a soothing balm to our own weary soul.   There are times we need to treat ourselves as a sacred partner, offer ourselves gentleness, forgiveness, and understanding, as we would to a dear friend.

This week in yoga we will practice enough by not forcing the body into any pre-conceived “perfect” version of a pose.  We will practice enough by not overdoing it or underdoing it.  We will practice enough by encouraging the voice in our head to speak with softness and praise for simply being our truest self.  Our focus will be on feeling the shape from the inside, rather than assessing the shape from the outside.

20190118_1029251336529539349316204.jpgBe in Warrior Pose for the sake of feeling alive rather than having your front thigh parallel to the floor, or your arms perfectly extended.  Be in Half Moon Pose near the wall or with a block for the adventure of it rather than the achievement of it.  Try old and new poses alike from the perspective that you are already enough, no matter what the voice in your head has learned to tell you.  You are already enough before you even step onto your mat.  It is only that getting on your mat and moving with the breath clears all the dirt away.  It’s the unearthing of jewels like this that keeps us coming back.  That’s the beauty of a yoga practice:  the shining, glimmering rediscovery that we are already enough, just as we are.

 

Last Week In Yoga: Both/And

Welcome to the “This Week in Yoga” Series.

I know, the title of today’s piece is “Last Week in Yoga,” but the idea has come a week into our first series, so, better late than never!

The concept we worked with last week is the idea that two seemingly disparate things, or, sensations, emotions, and thoughts, can co-exist.  For instance, if one of your most physically challenging yoga poses is Revolved Triangle (parivrtta trikonasana) or Crow (bakasana), you might consider inviting a sense of ease into the pose by unclenching your jaw, or directing your gaze downward, lengthening the cervical spine.

Try it out (follow the links above for direction):  once you’re in each of the postures, first, clench your jaw on purpose then let go;  second, tip your face toward the front wall, ceiling or sky, then angle your nose toward the ground.  Notice there is space between the upper and lower teeth, and space between the back of the head and back of the neck; tension is released, and ease is uncovered.

Now that you’ve created all kinds of space, notice how empowering it is to feel the strength throughout the length of your back leg, your side abdominals and back muscles, and your supporting and extending arms in revolved triangle, as well as your “everything else(!)” in crow pose.

The intention of practicing Both/And is to embrace the fact that ease exists alongside intensity.  Our yoga practice doesn’t have to be “all intensity” or “all ease,” “all 20190105_1022274695271670129936073.jpgstrength and high energy” or “all rest and relaxation.”  This Both/And practice allows us to circumvent an experience of Either/Or: either complete boredom and atrophy, or, overwhelming strain and exhaustion in our mat-based (sometimes vinyasa) yoga practice.  Instead, we get to experience our own power, the power to notice and acknowledge all that is present in the moment, which is no small accomplishment.

Keep in mind, our power is also a piece of this Both/And journey, for power is not strength alone, but a combination of strength and grace, and maybe even courage.

Happy Practicing!

The Catholic Yogi