Often when I meet new people, start new classes or receive new practitioners into classes I hear the same old comments such as ‘But I’m just not flexible.’ Or ‘I can’t meditate at all; my mind is all over the place.’ Or ‘Yoga oh no I can’t do yoga!’ And when I hear this it sends a little smile into my heart as I think back to practitioners that I shared the joy of yoga with and heard these exact comments, and since they have gone off to do their teacher training and are now established yogis and yoginis.
We all have to start somewhere and the very fact that you have entered a class for the first time or maybe sitting there reading this blog means you have some spark of interest somewhere no matter how deep down in the subconscious it may be.
So here are some things to consider that may ease your mind a little.
On the matter of flexibility; flexibility of the body is not an important issue, you may have seen photos and pictures in their droves of yogis in all sorts of wonderful positions, which may be a little intimidating when we start out. But don’t worry touching our toes and is not the important bit, but the journey of getting there is. And no matter what your flexibility these postures are designed to have an amazing amount of internal benefits to your organs for example which will be receiving that stimulation no matter where you are in terms of flexibility. The physical benefits to maintain the health of the body or improve the health of the body are there no matter what. It is important though to become aware of your body and then also the flexibility of the mind. Don’t put so much enversis on the body. Developing the heart through these postures is more important. The practice of the yogic postures has more bearing of a mental process. It is about examining and observing, how does your mind react to your body and visa versa. There will be moments of fear, of distrust or frustration – all the things that life throws at us arise through the practice of postures, but through practice we learn how to deal with them. Then what we learn on the mat we can apply to our lives. Asana’s (postures) themselves are patterns that connect us to and are in line with the cosmos, that open us up to new possibilities, in our bodies, minds and lives. Practice is a great opportunity to know your body on a deeper level we all have different skeletons so don’t worry about how the posture looks on the model in the pretty picture or how it looks on the practitioner next to you, you find your own way, this is the yoga.
On Meditation, yes the mind jumps everywhere this is the nature of the mind, don’t think you are the only one sitting there thinking this and that, what is for lunch, when I have to pick so and so up, when the deadline is for this and that. This is completely natural and actually shows a healthy mind. But again by doing the practice no matter how you perceive yourself to be at it is bringing the benefits, the magic is happening but it takes a bit of time and a bit of dedication and trust. Taming the mind is a huge job it is like taming a wild tiger, so don’t get annoyed with yourself, be kind to yourself and just observe, watch the thoughts without trying to stop them, just sit and watch like watching a movie without being involved in the play. In time you will begin to see yourself naturally becoming a little calmer, reacting a little differently to situations, dealing with things in a more peaceful manor. And when you start to become a little more peaceful the people around you also do, it vibrates out like ripples, and so the practice is not only for you but also for all that surround you. By just sitting in silence you may just find that little bit of space that you need.
On the matter of feeling pain. There is a difference between a good pain and a bad pain. If guided correctly there are only good things to be benefited from feeling a good pain. Of course there will be a little discomfort or sensations to the body that you may not be used to as the body begins to adjust, stretch, lengthen and release tensions. A good pain you can breathe through. A bad pain is a sudden, sharp and shooting pain and if experienced you should immediately come out of what you are doing. A good teacher with proper training will guide you correctly and according to your capacity, the best way is slowly. Let your teacher know of any medical conditions no matter how small they may seem before the class.
Practice is also about working through our emotions and this too can sometimes be painful. How our mind is reflects on our body and visa versa, often back issues are completely due to a build up of emotions, also our hips is where we hold a lot of emotional issues. Be patient with yourself, let things bubble up, observe them and let them pass. Each practice can feel very different from class to class depending on many factors such as how tired you are and what you have eaten. Sometimes it feels better to hold back and other times it feels good to challenge yourself, only you can decide but it is important to never ever force anything to happen, be kind and gentle to yourself and have no expectations, there is enough pressure in the world we don’t need any more.
Of course yoga is not for everyone at his or her stage of samsara the circle of life and death, but it there for everyone, for all of humanity and I admire anybody who takes the courage to step onto the mat.
Enjoy your practice, be open, be joyful and allow the inner light to grow and shine. The most interesting of journeys are often the most difficult.
Om Lokha Somasta Sukhino Bhavantu
May all beings find balance, harmony and peace.
Have beautiful days.
Mangala / Nicky.