“Everything is as it should be.”
This was the mantra that Adriene suggested for today’s practice. I like using mantras when practising yoga. One of the things that I loved most about YWA’s 30 day Yoga Camp was that each practice had a different mantra. Sometimes it’s good to have something a little more concrete, with a bit more direction, to focus on than simply the breath (although, as I’m learning, the breath in itself is a pretty wonderful thing). This particular mantra was an interesting one. In many ways the world feels like it’s in a dark place at the moment, and it’s difficult to say that’s how it “should” be. In so many ways it really shouldn’t be as it is. Rather than spending the entire practice feeling angry about certain international issues,** however, I tried to apply the mantra on a more personal level. I feel like I’m in limbo in certain areas of my life right now, which can be intensely irritating (I generally like to have at least one Plan in motion at any one time). A mantra that stops me fighting against things that I have no control over, even if only for a short while, can only be a good thing.
**(I feel I should clarify here that I think it’s absolutely right to feel angry about what’s going on in the world right now, and I do, but I know that that anger is not going to serve me on the mat. Also, taking some time out might help me think more clearly about how best to channel that anger into action.)
The focus of today’s practice was peace, or “shanti”. The term “inner peace” sounds corny, but there is so much to be said for quieting and calming the mind and creating, yes, inner peace. There were two particular aspects of this practice that, for me, were key to going some way to stopping the chattering in my mind. The first was really focusing on matching movement and breath and, crucially, slowing both of them down. I have a tendency to breath quite quickly, which means that when I’m moving with my breath the movements can also be relatively quick. Today I tried to consciously breath more slowly, which meant that my movements were slower. That focus on the connection between the two really does take you out of your mind and into your body, even if only for fleeting seconds at a time (at the moment, anyway).
The second aspect was what Adriene called “meeting and going beyond your edge”. In my experience, when doing exercises that really target a particular muscle or set of muscles to the point of discomfort or fatigue in the muscle, many exercise programmes focus on the end of the exercise, on getting through it, rather than the present moment. I find that that sort of approach tends to increase the chatter in my mind, in that I’m essentially giving myself a running pep talk to try to get myself to the end of the exercise. In yoga, I’ve found that being in the moment and focusing on both the breath and movement as one whole stops the chatter. Again, it does it in sporadic bursts, but that gives me something to build on.
Finally, Adriene made an excellent point at the beginning of the practice about the role of yoga in dealing with things like anxiety and fear. While we can’t expect to be free of them when we first come to the mat, as we practice, yoga takes the place of those anxieties and fears. I think that, often, disengaging from a particular anxiety can lessen its seemingly overwhelming impact and provide some perspective on dealing with it. That may not always be the case, and there have been times when I just haven’t been able to get my head in the right space to do any more than a few minutes of yoga before my anxiety-ridden brain just takes over and I’ve had to stop. That hasn’t happened for a while, though. While I know myself well enough to know that I probably can’t say goodbye to that sort of thing forever, I do feel that yoga is helping me to distance myself from my often self-destructive internal narrative, which means that the latter’s effect on my emotional state is lessening. Slowly, but surely.