Trust the Wisdom of Your Animal Body

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Just as we cannot see the force of magnetism, we do not always understand on a cognitive level the pull to our practice. The physical practice of yoga awakens our innate intelligence and helps us to remember a deep truth that lives in each cell of our bodies. We start getting rearranged and re-patterned, and to our postmodern consciousness, this seems mysterious. But like butter to a warm pancake, we are drawn to it and soon our roots start to grow in the fertile garden of our practice. We meet new people, seekers, like us who know there is more available in this human experience and are hungering to access it. Trust the pull to your mat, to the community, to the quiet, to your inner landscape. 

A long-time Tibetan Tantric teacher, Reggie Ray, describes the wisdom of the body this way: “It’s not mental. You can’t put it into words. You can’t put labels on it. You can’t conceptualize it. You can’t think logically about it. It’s almost as if the body itself speaks in a language that does not translate into our thinking mind … According to the Tibetan tantric tradition, the body speaks through what I would call ‘somatic intuition’ - a felt sense.”

It’s like when our heart is telling us the opposite of what our mind is thinking. Or when you have a gut feeling about something. Your body tells you quite clearly after a good yoga class that this is nourishing, healing and calming. But what exactly is happening on the mat? Why do you feel so good? Why should you trust your somatic intuition? On the physiological level our body, mind and nervous systems are beginning to communicate, connect and flow together at the same tempo. We are literally rewiring how our brain and nervous systems are functioning with every practice. You become more grounded, your sleep improves, patience is a possibility and some aches and pains just vanish.  Also, old wounds or tensions, difficult lessons learned that are still living in your tissues may surface, meaning it might be time to work with them and learn what they have to teach you so that you can release them and be free.

Your logical brain might be saying, “I don’t have time to go to class,” while simultaneously you can feel the deep yearning from your body for the sacred space of your asana practice and all that it provides: slowing down, going within, connecting to your breath, being in kind community, opening and strengthening your body, mind and spirit. Trust that wisdom impulse. It is informed by the same intelligence that made the mountains, the oceans, the turtles and the trees, and it lives in every cell of your body. 

Be well, 

Ellen

On the Mat and Beyond

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What are your favorite excuses for not doing yoga?

Sickness, mental laziness, doubt, lack of enthusiasm, sloth, craving for sense pleasure, false perception, despair caused by failure to concentrate, and unsteadiness in concentration: these distractions are the obstacles to knowledge,” state the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

We all know the fabulous feeling of emerging from a yoga class being changed, energized and replenished. “Why don’t I do that at home? Why don’t I do that more often?” we often ask ourselves after we practice. An eternal question that even the ancient yoginis appear to have grappled with, as evidenced by the quote above.

So, what is the “juice” calling us to practice more regularly? Of course, there is the physical sensation – the fine feeling of integration and release that hums in our bodies after a good practice. But something deeper happens in a yoga class. Something beyond the physical. Something that compels us to take our minds into the mysteries of the body and the breath. We know that yoga isn’t always easy, that we sweat and meet our limitations again and again. That we encounter discomfort and impatience, along with moments of release and transcendence. And we want more.

I believe that what keeps us coming back to our practice, the fire behind the experience we want to have, is the sacred quality we sometimes taste when our spirit is clearly aligned with our bodies, breath and minds. It’s the feeling of our consciousness dancing, a teacher of mine once said. Of course, we want more of that!

There are many practical hints I could give you to get you on your mat. Create a space for practice. Start with only 5 minutes a day. Leave the practice wanting more so you can’t wait to practice again. Choose a pose and structure a practice around it. Lie in quiet stillness afterwards and let the practice integrate into your mind, body and spirit, becoming a part of you.

But the greatest encouragement I can give you is this: your own unfolding and evolving that happens during the precious time you spend in your yoga practice will benefit yourself and others in your life beyond what you can imagine. Step onto your mat, hold in your heart and mind your highest and clearest intention and let your true self dance.

Reprinted from the SYA Winter/Spring Newsletter 1998/1999.

 

 

Don't Seize the Day

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When I was a kid, some teacher or adult taught me this rhyme: “Good, better, best. Never let it rest. Until your good is better, and your better best.”

So the indoctrination into striving and accomplishment, and not accepting anything less than the very best effort and the very best outcome, starts early. Jumping up out of bed, getting right to work, being productive, are all considered markers of a balanced approach to life. Of course the opposite, staying in bed until noon and sleepwalking through the day, isn't optimal either. Somewhere in the middle is a life that honors the rhythms of nature. 

We are creatures of the earth. We are made of clay and water. As I write this, it is winter, a few weeks before the Solstice. It is dark by 5:00pm and the sun traverses the sky in a low arc all day long, a weak winter light. The rhythm of the natural forces around us are all reminding us to hibernate, to withdraw, to rest, to dream, to wait. Can you hear them? Can you follow their example?

This doesn’t mean don’t go to work, don’t follow your calling. It means to do so with one ear tuned to the quiet voice of discernment, which will tell you when to say yes, when to say no. No can be a lovely word when it defends what you hold as sacred.

Let the day come to you, walk a half breath behind, look around at the different shapes of leaves, the moving art that is the clouds. It is possible to “hurry slowly,” when you are required to accelerate to the speed of industry and power. Your contribution to the easing of some of the anxiety of this world could be the quiet calm of your presence as you allow the day to embrace you in its own infinite variety and changeability. Open palms, open heart, nothing seized, nothing grabbed.

-Denise