As someone whose severe motion sickness precludes intense yoga practice, it was a revelation for me to learn that yoga is also about training our mindfulness skills off the mat. My dear friend Carolyn Bagdoyan, a certified RYT 200 yoga instructor and specialist in several areas of recovery and restorative yoga, was kind enough to allow me to reprint her recent blog post from hearttreeyoga.com. Given the deep mindfulness wisdom Carolyn shares, you’ll see why I’ll be inviting her back from time to time! If you’re based in the Washington, DC, metro area, I encourage you to check out Carolyn’s yoga therapy services at www.hearttreeyoga.com.
Staying Present – Let the Yamas Help
Welcome to June! After a cool, rainy May in Northern VA, temperatures have finally begun to shift, and the sense of summer is approaching. Anticipation is high for all that summer brings–school’s release, summer evenings, cookouts and pool time, family vacations, and camps for kids.
Summer brings excitement and a sense of new adventure. At the same time it often uproots us from our normal routines. As we focus on a calendar of scheduling and preparing for summer pastimes, we can be drawn away from feeling grounded. We are flying high with expectation and this can feel elating at times. It can also upend feelings of balance and continuity in our lives, allowing stress to seep inwards.
How can yoga help? Even ‘off’ our mat?
At Heart Tree Yoga we have reached the mid-point of our year-long exploration of yoga’s ethical principles, guided by Deborah Adele’s The Yamas and Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice.
Tying together what we have discovered these past 5 months about yoga’s ethical restraints–the Yamas–can help provide the guidance we need to stay grounded and rooted even as expectation abounds around us.
Here is what we’ve discovered:
- We nurture ourselves when we practice nonharm and self-compassion, while quieting self-judgment. We intentionally choose to create space for inner listening, reflection, and self-care to open our lives to internal peace, balance, and calm.
- We honor our truth when we honor the whole of who we are in the present moment. This means recognizing that we are both ‘our tissues and our issues’–our physical, emotional, and mental selves–as well as our ability to step back and simply notice what ‘is’ with quiet, non-judgmental observance. Honoring this whole truth helps us awaken to acknowledging and accepting our whole being with a sense of joy and ease.
- We welcome joy and vitality into our lives when we mindfully root our awareness to experiencing our 5 senses, practicing nonstealing from the present moment, and the quieting of thoughts that drift to the past and future.
- We thrive when we understand that growing and unfolding at our own pace along our own path keeps us from tipping the balance between body, mind, and soul. We practice nonexcess when we embrace where and who we are in this present moment–allowing us to encounter the sacredness and awe of ‘enough.’
- We cultivate nonpossessiveness when we learn to let go. We can let our breath be the teacher by feeling and relishing each inhaled breath and then letting that breath go with ease. In so doing we start to see how the invitation for enrichment begins with an ability to simply let go with ease. As we learn to let go of our breath we gain insight about how to be nourished by relationships, situations, possessions, and experiences, but not be burdened or controlled by them, because much like the breath, these attachments are things that will pass.
So, segue back to summer. How can the practice of nonharm, truth, nonstealing, nonexcess, and nonpossessiveness help us stay grounded and rooted at a time when expectation abounds?
The answer lies within us. It begins with the magic of mindfulness.
What does this mean?
It means noticing when we start to get caught up in the whirlwind of our summer schedule. Listening to all parts of our physical, emotional, and mental body, and honoring these messages by taking time for self-care and reflection. Tapping into our non-judgmental inner wisdom and opening our hearts compassionately to the magnificent essence of our entire being.
It means slipping off our shoes and sensing the grass beneath our feet and inhaling the air’s flower-infused scent after a summer rain. Savoring the sweet tastes of summer’s bounty and listening to the symphony of summer’s small creatures. Stopping to take in the lushness of the season’s sights. Striving to find these small moments in each day since they point us back to the present moment.
It means inviting quiet stillness to appreciate what nature teaches us about not rushing through growth and unfolding and practicing gratitude for ‘enough’. And it means learning from our breath how to let go and welcome life moment by moment while releasing what serves us no longer.
I want to close with a quote from garden photographer and author Martha Brettschneider’s book, Blooming into Mindfulness: How the Universe Used a Garden, Cancer, and Carpools to Teach Me That Calm Is the New Happy.
“Living mindfully, with intention and purpose in the present moment, results in a sense of steady, confident, contented joy.”
As June leads us into summer, be open to your own joy and contentment. Bloom your way into mindfulness. Practice what yoga can teach us about finding balance and a sense of staying grounded–even amidst expectation–by observing self-care, self-compassion, self-acceptance and self-love.
Be. So you can Live.
With light and love,