Have you been doing your “Yoga homework?”

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BY: TRISHA CURLING 

My final article for 2017 laid out a schedule as a guide for our yoga practice for 2018.  This is what I wrote for March:

“Reflect on challenges in recent practices – Do a scan of your physical practice.  Question where you found some limitations/challenges.  Take those areas as opportunities to grow and to find poses that will help you to move through those challenges”.  It’s funny because this is always the hardest for me and without remembering that I wrote this for March, I was glad that I had the opportunity to revisit it and make a new commitment for myself to do so. 

It’s very easy to continuously come back to the poses that make us feel good and that come easy to us, but in order to progress and possibly bring balance and more healing to other areas of the body, we must practice the poses that bring us challenge.  Doing this not only affects the physical body, but it also has a wonderful and powerful impact on the mind.

The best way to start is to go to your mat and do what instinctively comes naturally in your practice. You may find that you have some “go to” poses, the ones that make you feel powerful and/or soothe you.  These are the ones that come easily to you.  Now consider the ones that you might steer away from because they don’t feel as natural or fun to go to.  It doesn’t mean trying “difficult” poses, it just means that you might consider the areas of your body that maybe be carrying a lot of tension. Maybe if you tend to focus on one side of the body more than the other, spend some more time on the side that you “neglect”.  Another thing to consider might be the fundamental poses you need to do in order to practice a more “intermediate or advanced” pose.  It might seem tedious to visit these fundamentals a little bit more, but they are in fact often what we need.

Approaching your physical practice in this way does more for your mind than you might consider.  Compare it to anything that you might have achieved in life. When you face challenging obstacles head-on, how do you feel after you have conquered them? Always rewarded, I’ll bet. When we approach our practice in this way, we build resilience, perseverance, and mental strength. We learn how to go through some of the more challenging situations in life with an understanding that we can move through them and get past them. Instead of avoiding what we know will eventually surface, we can face it head-on. It can also nurture our ability to make decisions.  “Asana (poses) bring steadiness, health, and lightness of limb. A steady and pleasant posture produces mental equilibrium and prevents fickleness of mind.” (B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga, pg. 20) The mind is more clear and able to develop a better perspective. 

Yoga is undeniably a merging of the body, mind, and spirit. When you start a regular yoga practice you can’t help but reap the benefits that are beyond the body. Spending time to balance your body in a physical way will bring increased happiness. It may reduce pain and tension in some nagging areas of the body. When our focus moves away from these “physical ailments”, we are happier and more clear in our direction in other areas of our lives. 

“The Yogi conquers the body by the practice of asanas and makes it a fit vehicle for the spirit.” (B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga, pg. 20).

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