As ever, we always need to remember that our yoga ‘practice’ is a practice for what happens in our life off the mat. Practice is essentially the metaphor for how to live in a healthy way. So in this regard , we are looking for ‘techniques’ that are of course equally applicable in our daily life.
INSTINCTIVELY, IS IT THE RIGHT CLASS FOR YOU?
Appreciate your individuality and tune into your instincts. Your energy body is unique to you and may require different input than someone else’s. So in this respect the first technique is to ascertain whether you are actually in the right class for you by developing a sensitivity to your body’s signals – as entering the class is ultimately entering a posture; How do you feel? Does the practice open you? Do you relax in body, mind, and spirit? Do you resonate with the teaching style?
YOUR ATTENTION HAS POWER
It’s essential to note that your attention itself has power. We spend huge amounts of time with our attention outside of us, but inverting and focusing it inside will also immediately soothe and lift your vibration.
Simply becoming more aware of your breathing dynamics, depth and rhythm, helps to support balance as the breath is a perfect barometer for how you are feeling in the moment. While the mind can be scrambling to find a word to describe how you are, bringing your awareness to the breath can tell you much more! When we are relaxed and our diaphragm is at ease, there is a lovely expansion and contraction in the abdomen caused by the movement of the diaphragm. So in a moment of conscious awareness choose to focus your attention on the breath which also immediately pulls you down out of the mind and can make you more aware of what you need. If your abdomen is held tight, and rigid, it’s a cue that you need to take an action or engage in practice in order to relax
Pranayama generally supports balance – so most techniques will help alleviate stress. However, there are a couple of specific techniques which I find can be particularly helpful. Alternate nostril breathing is incredibly effective as it balances the right and left hemispheres of the brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. It can be a ‘quick win’ as no matter what you are trying to achieve it can help, either by calming the ‘left brain’ conceptual part of the mind, (so excellent if you are over-busy and stuck in your thoughts) but equally, if you are feeling sluggish it can also stimulate your ‘right brain’ which can stimulate your creative faculties too. I also love 3 Stage Deep Yogic Breath as I enjoy watching how my perception changes as I practice.
When you deeply relax, not only is it incredibly rejuvenating, it also changes the texture of the mind. You also experience streams of thought which are often more deeply embedded in the subconscious and difficult to reach when you are in your usual daily mind state. So going ‘inside’ via relaxation means you can pick up on creative ideas and thoughts you often miss, thus balancing not just your energetic body but also building wisdom for actions that can enhance your life too.
TAILOR TO YOUR CURRENT PHYSICAL STATE
Our state of being, just like life itself is constantly in a state of change so maintaining some flexibility and discernment in which asanas and sequences we choose can be a great ally! If you are feeling full of energy then choosing a class full of very yin, slow or still asanas may not serve you as well as more dynamic sequences can. Similarly, if you are feeling very depleted then choosing slow or restorative sequences and asanas may be better than more dynamic ones.
TAILOR TO YOUR CURRENT EMOTIONAL STATE
Similar to choosing asanas that relate to our physical state, we can also incorporate asanas to help balance our emotions! For example, if you are sitting on some unexpressed or suppressed energy that you really need to assert out into the world you might want to engage your warrior asanas, whereas if your prevailing emotions at the moment are that you need to surrender, choose more passive asanas such as child pose.
TAILOR TO YOUR CURRENT MENTAL STATE
We often get lost in specific thoughts but it’s good to zoom out of the minutiae of your mind from time to time and look at the overall pattern of your mindscape and thoughts. For example, if you feel too much ‘in your head’ then choose some grounding, earthing sequences such as tree pose, or if your thoughts have an overbearing quality, without a sense of enough space between them, choose techniques, sequences, and asanas that activate the Lungs and Heart in particular (such as pranayama or focusing on the breath whilst in an asana, or chest openers such as Cobra or camel).
Although visualisation, and the application of thought can in some ways be seen as counterintuitive to the oft-sought yogic desire to empty the mind. The application of thought can, of course, have a healing impact, particularly when used in conjunction with embodied awareness. For example, when you visualise the chakra colours from root to crown (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet) with your attention anchoring the frequency of the colour into the relevant part of the body it can be very healing. Essentially, whenever your awareness (Yang) meets with the density of the physical body (Yin) you create an energetic hot spot that raises your vibration, as it’s a creative fusion – when Yin and Yang come together it creates wholeness.
Sound can often be neglected in our practice, and I find one of the quickest ways to harmonise my state, and to connect with the natural environment around me is to simply sound some “OM”’s. Chanting OM can seem like one of the biggest yoga clichés, but it’s impeccably effective for supporting balance. Remember OM is the vibrational frequency that passes through all natural living matter, and it helps to retune us to this natural frequency (sometimes, just like a musical instrument we also get out of tune too). Tips to increase the efficacy can be directing the sound into different areas of the body, (which helps to free up stagnation) and also expanding your awareness to include natural life around you – trees, fields, rivers, oceans, the sun, and moon, even visualise the whole planet in your awareness if you wish!
Words: Richard Brook