Monday, April 22, 2013

Flexible Body, Flexible Mind, Flexible Yoga?

Last week I talked about my new stretching regimen, and how changing my body is forcing me to rethink my perceptions of self, and to be more aware of how others are perceiving me.  This week I want to talk  Specifically, last Spring, shortly after I started doing a five-minute nightly stretch routine, I was at a friend's birthday party, filling her in on what I was up to, including the new stretching routine, she interrupted to ask,

"Wait, stretching?  Why aren't you calling it yoga?"  I quickly explained that my stretching regimen was in addition to my regular yoga practice, but I think I missed the point.  What I really meant was,

"Yoga is not always stretching, and stretching is not always yoga."  You can easily do one and not the other.  I was not under the illusion that five minutes spent tugging at rock hard hamstrings qualified as stilling the vacillations of my mind.

But, yoga isn't just what you define as "Yoga". Yoga seeps into every part of your life, which is why this yoga blog is about so many different things!

So, I may not call it 'yoga', anymore than I call wondering through the park and taking pictures of the Spring flowers 'yoga', but sometimes, it IS yoga, and in fact, the goal is FOR it to be yoga.  As Christians say, we should pray without ceasing, not cease everything and pray.
What does it look like when I'm doing yoga AND stretching?

Well, usually it looks like me in a straddle forward fold, breathing super deeply and loudly so as to stay present and calm in the face of significant discomfort.

It looks like me micro-adjusting my janu sirsasana every second, to square my chest more fully over the extended leg, and lengthen my spine even more, instead of just sinking in and letting my mind get absorbed into the current episode of Eureka.
It looks like me taking a deep breath and refocusing on the sensation I'm creating, instead of trying to measure if my back thigh is any closer to the floor in my splits yet.

It looks like choosing to be a part of the process, instead of getting distracted by potential results.  It looks like choosing to be present, whether the present is comfortable or pleasant or not so much.

Yoga is a lot of self discipline, a lot of impulse control.  Perhaps not surprisingly, impulse control was found to be greatest indicator of future success among school age children.  Even if you can't make it to a yoga studio a couple times a week, even if you can't reliably download yoga podcasts to do in your living room, you can still do yoga.

By consciously relaxing your jaw and observing your present moment the next time you get stuck in traffic.

By carefully assessing the way you clean the house, and asking yourself if there are different methods you could use to make you more efficient, instead of mindlessly living out the same old patterns.

By dedicating yourself to each day at your job, instead of constantly looking ahead and planning on how much fun you'll have when you finally get that promotion or raise.

Give it a try.  Keep trying even when it's really hard.  And in a few months, let me know how you're feeling.

Live Omily,

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