For many people their first introduction to yoga is through the desire to become fitter and healthier. This is a great place to start and indeed regular practice will help you be both.
After some time however one will find there is more to yoga than simply ‘special’ exercises. Yoga teachers are inclined to talk about the breath a lot – ‘keep breathing’ is a phrase I often employ.
When we are stressed we often ‘hold on’ to our breath as though by ‘breathing’ we might lose control and be out of control! That’s a scary place and so if the breath is something we can control then hey – let’s hang on to it. Yoga is a way of freeing up our nervous systems.
Change is constant both mentally and physically – it is a perpetual process and by noticing our habits we can learn to adapt and change in a positive way. The alternative is become stuck and stiff in mind and body.
I have learnt over many years that the movements or Asana of yoga are about honouring our normal patterns of movement. Sometimes we have unconscious patterns that are not serving us well – yoga helps to bring our awareness and attention to these habits and to begin to develop more helpful patterns.
Yoga is firstly about Effort, effort to go to a class, get on your mat, do your practice, maintain awareness and attention throughout practice and in the day; secondly it is about the release of tension: our habitual ‘tension’ seem so ‘normal’, but by being aware and attentive we can let them go, overtime replacing them with more supportive patterns. This is where we can start to ‘find’ the breath, let the breath go and it will flow back in and then out again of its own accord and without any tension.
The biggest lesson that yoga can teach us is to be ‘non-judgemental’ of ourselves. See what arises and let it go – accept change and keep breathing!
By Mary Mackie – British Wheel of Yoga teacher and teacher trainer; Yoga therapist qualified with the Yoga Biomedical Trust; retired RGN specialising in Palliative care.