Yoga for me started as a way to tend to back pain. My, how it evolved from there. Soon after starting the physical practice, the philosophy started soaking in, the ease, the wonder, the stillness. Of course, the stillness, the calmness, can be and is often fleeting. But not forever, no. When we come back to our breath, or our mat, we can find it all over again. “The breath is always there for you”, something my personal teacher often says- may not mean much to some who haven’t experienced the grounding and calming effects that comes with breathing deeply. There is, of course, science behind this but as I am here to speak from a personal standpoint- I will save that for another day or encourage you to do a google search. The biggest point is, the breath has such a way with the nervous system. It cools it down from fight or flight. It helps us slow down, it helps us see things, it helps us connect to ourselves, it helps us be present or at least practice presence. It is vital to my mental well being.
“Is plank really that cooling?” You may ask, as it can heat the body, it can bring us to discomfort. It doesn’t sound relaxing on a surface level but, and again, since I’m coming from a personal place today- envision what it takes to do hard things. Mental clarity, focus, confidence, calmness, inner strength- those kinds of things are some of the things we learn and embrace in the physical practice of yoga.
Yoga is so much more than poses and meditation, it is an entire eight limbed path but today I’m going to focus on the physical and the meditation and breath pieces. Yoga, meets you where you are. You’ll hear me say this a lot here and on my social media platforms and just in conversation- because it is one of the parts of yoga that I love most. For example, my mind has been in an overwhelmed state the last month or so. Just a lot of things have been on my plate and because- and here is honesty- I had been letting my yoga practice slip and take a back seat because I felt too tired, too stress, too anxious to get my body to move, all that stress piled on and weighed so much heavier because I had let my practice fall by the wayside.
I love yoga, I know how important it is to my well being, I know how much I need it and how good it is, I have never done yoga and walked away wishing I hadn’t- but it’s still hard to get on the mat sometimes. Imagine if self care was easy and effortless, we wouldn’t have so many frantic, stressed out people. We’d all walk around relaxed and at ease, but no- this isn’t the reality. Stress and anxiety, pressure to perform or do, expectations, tiredness, life, etc, etc, etc, can make the idea of self care feel daunting or hard or something we don’t have time for. You know you need it, I know I need it, but we can also acknowledge- as little as it may make sense- that it can be hard to do. Some days I have to drag myself to the mat and some days I don’t at all and it doesn’t take long for me to feel incredibly drained, overwhelmed, anxious, struggling to breathe deeply, and stressed. The truth is, it’s hard to take care but the truth is- it’s also hard not to take care and we have to choose our hard.
So, back to the idea that yoga meets us where we are and how that looks like for me right now. In times like these, when I’m overwhelmed and feel I have so much on my plate, when my energy is low, I don’t have to push myself into plank, I don’t have to vinyasa, I don’t have to even stand. I can sit low on the ground, I can sit on a pillow, I can cover up with a blanket, I don’t even have to move all that much. But I can still practice, I can still show up with the intention of taking 5, 10, 15, 50 minutes to breathe deep, stretch out, prop myself up and let my body relax. That is more effective than vinyasa (for me personally) sometimes and sometimes I stay in what I lovingly call sloth mode so long it becomes a detriment and I (me, personally- maybe not you) feel worse and vinyasa is what lifts me back up out of my slothy state and gives me a gentle reminder that I am strong, I am capable, I can do hard things, I can move swiftly while breathing, I can be at peace and ease no matter how fast life may feel. Not to mention the endorphins. Through lots of trial and error I know I need exercise in my life to feel my “best”. I also need yoga, meditation, quietness, quality sleep, and not too much sugar. I bet if you look close enough you can find the things that serve you and the things that don’t and find a way to moderate them. This won’t be universal, what I need and what you need may look very differently.
Ultimately, I came here to say- be still, breathe, show up to your mat, see where it goes. Ask yourself and really try and tune in to what you need from yoga that day and follow that. Don’t do vinyasa because it’s on the calendar if you feel so strongly in your bones and know you need something more restorative. Don’t always fall on restorative if you know you need to move your body and get going. Check in, see what you need. Maybe you have no clue, show up and see where it goes anyways. Put on headphones and just start to move, click through yoga videos online, arrive at the next open class to you, there are options if you don’t know where to start, if you don’t know what you need. Just show up, sit down on your mat or in your yoga space- and say “hey yoga, I’m tired and stressed and don’t feel strong today. I feel like crying. But I’m here and I’m going to listen to my body today as I work with you,” See how you feel when you walk away. Embrace what it feels like to shed expectations, schedules, and pressure and truly meet yourself where you are that day- because your yoga always will.