Awareness provides the basis for mastery of our emotions
Many people start a yoga practice because they need help to manage stress and learn to relax – not just for the exercise. Yoga practice helps us develop a greater sense of mastery over mind and body, and one of the ways it does this is to enhance our self-awareness. Yoga gives us techniques to “hold space” for feeling, thoughts and sensations. This allows us to become aware and learn how to manage them more effectively.
Emotions flow through us, but are not “us”
It can be helpful to recognize that feelings and thoughts are not you – but things that flow through you.
Learning to observe your emotions with some detached awareness can be useful. Not every feeling or thought needs to be acted on. And, we often have patterns for the ways we think and feel, just like we have habit patterns in the body. Sometimes just noticing these things is enough to create a shift in our lives.
Yoga poses create opportunities for learning and self-mastery
When we hold a pose in yoga, we notice the body and work with the breath; we hold the space for a moment of conscious awareness. This is one of the special elements that makes yoga so valuable.
The body gives us cues about what may be happening in the mind, and can be an early warning system. The physical movements of yoga are helpful in releasing pent up emotions, and/or moderating unwelcome ones. For example, a vigorous flowing Sun Salutation can help the body let go of tension stored in the body.
Breathing techniques can help modulate emotions and moods. The three-part breath, for example, can help re-set body and mind through conscious control and slowing of the breath, which helps calm and re-focus the mind. Other breathing practices, like the “breath of joy”, can energize and elevate the mood.
Cultivating positive emotions can be a powerful technique
It is helpful to cultivate positive emotions, because they feel so much better.
Positive emotions also are excellent for our bodies, promoting healing and supporting healthy relationships.
One valuable technique is to begin a “gratitude” journal, keeping daily accounts of what you are thankful for in your life. This practice has a way of re-framing our view of our lives, and can be a powerful way of shifting attitudes and emotions.
No place for judgment; just be aware
Yoga practice can make us more aware and sensitive both on and off the mat. A yoga pose creates a place to be steady and comfortable, a place to listen to the body as well as the inner working of the mind and emotions.
Don’t criticize yourself if you observe or experience negative emotions, just see them as teachers. It’s all about paying attention.
The primary aim of yoga is to restore the mind to simplicity and peace, and free it from confusion and distress.
Joanna Dudley, E-RYT 200, MSW, LCSW
As the longest day of the year arrives, the Sun remains an unchanging presence, constancy in the face of disruption and change. It is life-giving, life-sustaining and essential for the creative growth of life on the planet.
All this time
The sun never says to the earth,
“You owe Me.”
Look what happens
With a love like that,
It lights the
Re-entering, expanding and shining your light
The summer solstice is a good moment to re-assess our lives as we transition into a new season. It’s a new season in many ways, as we begin to come out of the year of hibernation and wariness in the face of a global pandemic. In many ways, this new phase has even greater challenges as we re-negotiate our relationships, habits and connections in the world. Many of us are still coping with residual anxieties and fears as we are embracing the new beginnings.
As we explore this new phase, we learn let go of old habits we have acquired during the last year, and embrace our capacity to awaken and light up the world again with our presence. As we embrace the physical practice of yoga, we feel the stability of the earth beneath us, we move in rhythm with the breath and we feel strength and stability in the body. As we move into the new season we remember that whatever happens, we always have the breath to calm, energize or focus our minds and bodies.
Finding warmth and light with kindred spirits
As we return to practicing yoga in person, we rediscover the feeling of warmth and safety in the presence of others. We are aware that we have all changed in some way as a result of the pandemic, and we commit to honoring each person’s journey.
Recognizing our connections with each other, we can seek to share our light and warmth with others through kindness and generosity. We are so much more aware now of how we need each other. Our yoga practice can renew and focus our energies to support each other, refreshing a sense of the ties that bind us together.
Lightening up and discarding excess “weight”
As we re-awaken our communal yoga practice, we move our bodies and leave the inertia and hibernating behind. We release what is no longer needed, in body and mind. The sun symbolizes this – offering its warmth, light and life-giving energy to all.
“Think light! Try to impart a feeling of lightness to the body. Think light. This can be achieved by mentally extending yourself outwards from the center of the body, i.e., think tall. Think not just of raising your arms but of extending them outwards, and when you are holding them still, think again of reaching still farther away from your body. Do not think of yourself as a small, compressed suffering thing. Think of yourself as graceful and expanding, no matter how unlikely it may seem at the time.”
Let your path be lighter and brighter
Find an attitude of gratitude and generosity – and re-connect with us in this life-giving, evolving practice of yoga which is different each time you step on the mat. No matter where you find yourself, remember that you always have your breath, and the sun still shines its warmth and light. As Hafiz also says, “I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being.” So let your path be lighter and brighter!
Joanna Dudley, E-RYT 200, MSW, LCSW
One day a mother and her son were watching all the little lizards playing in their back yard in Florida. The mother noticed that many of the lizards were missing their tails, and commented to her son that it seemed so sad that so many of the lizards seemed injured or damaged in some way. Her son responded by saying: “Mom, don’t worry about that. Lizards can re-grow their tails!”
The Pandemic has impacted our sense of security and social connections
Most of us have experienced trauma and loss – or at the very least a great deal of stress – over the last fourteen months of our lives. The impact of the Pandemic now seems to be receding and the world is slowly re-opening. However, we are now faced with the challenge of re-engaging and re-defining our interactions with the world. We have a new sense of uncertainty about what is safe, and awareness of the fragility of our existence.
Yoga: Finding renewal, confidence and creativity
If you are already a practicing yogi, you know that one of the great benefits of yoga is that it cultivates our ability to find strength and resilience in spite of challenge. We call our yoga a “practice” because we are always preparing for what life brings us. The Pandemic was one of those things we have been practicing “for”!
When we practice yoga we find stability in the earth beneath us. We rise up with the breath, and with an exhale we release and soften what does not need to be held. We repeat this again and again, until it becomes the rhythm of how we live our lives.
We can always begin with the next breath. We find confidence in the strength of our bodies. We find beauty and creativity in movement on the mat. Our awareness of body and breath connects us to the mind and brings us into the present moment. Living in this moment can help us let go of the anxieties and fears we all shared over the past year. We can let go of the trauma we have experienced and bring our natural creativity into action. This is how we renew ourselves and find healing and growth.
Ahimsa (non-harming, compassion) and our responsibilities to each other
We have now seen how connected we all are across the globe. We have realized how much we need each other, and are dependent on each other for survival. As we move forward with recovery from the Pandemic, it is an opportunity for us to become actively engaged in supporting each other – and to find ways (unique to you) that you can be part of healing yourself, your community and the world. You can make a difference. As you integrate the physical practice of yoga with an understanding of the ethical principles of our practice, it leads to an awareness of your own essential role in manifesting the most important principle of yoga. That principle of non-harming or non-violence is a call to act with compassion and empathy in our world. It reminds us of the importance of self-care and the responsibility to be a healing force in the world.
Be like the lizard – keep growing and re-generating. Be creative and strong. Make a difference!
Rebuild your strength
Regain your balance
Revive your energy
Refresh your mind
Rekindle your soul.