Impossible Possibilities – From Yoga To Life

 

As I have been practicing yoga for many years I am able to do things with my body that would have never seemed possible in the past.  People often look at flexible people and think that they are born that way and sometimes they are. If you practice yoga regularly, changes inevitably occur.  It is the inner change that is important not the result.

 

Some degree of flexibility is healthy and enables us to move our joints  freely without pain.  So to some extent flexibility is functional.  However many yoga poses go beyond this functional range of motion.  Yet I find people wish they could do such and such a pose and I myself have been susceptible to the allure of a challenging asana myself.  But when you can do crazy stuff with your body it doesn’t make you any happier, more spiritually progressed or whatever.  It just means you can put your leg behind your head now, it isn’t really important but the journey is.

 

There are many things that I used to think were impossible both on and off the mat.  My yoga practice allows me to attempt the impossible every day and over time see it change. The pace of modern life is fast and yoga has taught me the patience necessary to work at things which seemed impossible to me.  The greatest result isn’t my outer physical flexibility but my flexibility in life to see past any limitations I may have otherwise placed on myself.   Many if not most impossible things are possible with work, this is one of the wonderful things I take from yoga to life.

What has yoga taught you that you are able to bring to your life?

 

Balancing Yoga Practice With Life, Love and Challenges

As is the tradition in Ashtanga Yoga, I practice yoga six days a week. The only exceptions are illness or injury, but usually that just means I modify what I practice. Practicing this often is great, for me it’s like brushing my teeth; it’s a non-negotiable part of my day that I love. Practicing daily brings the benefits of practice into my daily life but finding the time for it can still sometimes present a challenge.

 

Helen and Marc walking in Wales

Helen and her partner Marc walking in Wales - After yoga

I have just been to Wales to spend the extended weekend with my family and my partner, I had a lovely time. As I was there to spend time with those I love I found myself thinking about how it can sometimes seem such a selfish act to practice daily.  It is a luxury that I am very grateful to be able to experience fully.  My friends and family are very accepting and know it is part of who I am.

 

In this modern world, full of over productive schedules, taking the time for me can seem selfish. This is especially the case if I or my loved ones are going through challenging times in life. There are obviously occasions when not doing yoga may be the most ethical or safest thing to do. If my house was on fire, for example! In most cases, it is possible to practice yoga and do the right thing by the rest of your life. I am reminded now, of practicing on the day of my father’s funeral, it seemed such a strange thing to do but it helped me stay calm when I read a poem at the funeral and it helped me through the challenging day.

 

Experience has taught me that I am more aware of myself and others and better able to keep calm from practicing yoga and I am therefore able to make a better contribution to my world. I think it is important for everyone to make some time each day to connect with themselves, in whatever way they choose even if it is only 5 minutes. It can seem selfish but in the end I hope it helps everyone. I am very grateful for the time I have for myself and the impact that has on the rest of my life.  How have you overcome challenges in practising yoga?

Inner Heat – Mysore Style Ashtanga

This morning I went to a Mysore style class at my teacher’s shala in London.  As you can imagine, due to the recent weather, the room was hot!  The heat of many bodies practicing this dynamic style creates a heat, which combined with my own inner heat and our recent heatwave created a steamy practice.  When people are new to Ashtanga Yoga they sometimes think the sweat is a problem but actually you are meant to sweat in Ashtanga Yoga, this internal heat is part of its cleansing benefits.  Personally I love practicing in summer as my body begins to unravel after the winters practice.


How hot people get depends on many factors but some people just sweat more than others.  I have never been much of a sweater but I can imagine it can be a little distracting.  You may find you slide on your mat a bit.  If this happens a Mysore rug
 or a yoga towel would help you a great deal.  My preference is Manduka eQua® Mat Towel and I was glad I packed mine this weekend!

It was lovely to practice with a group today.  I love the energy and focus of a Mysore style room.  For those of you unfamiliar with this way of teaching, Mysore style is the traditional way to learn Ashtanga Yoga as it is taught in Mysore India.  It is self practice in a group environment with teacher’s assistance.  Individuals practice as much of the sequence/ sequences as appropriate for them.  Physically it allows each body to work at its own pace and get very individualized assistance.  So a complete beginner can practice next to someone who has been practicing for decades.  What I love most about it though is that it develops an inner focus because you don’t have to externalise your awareness to follow the teachers instructions like you do in a led class.  The focus of others in the room also helps me to pinpoint my own awareness and take me deeper into the practice.  I love it!

How have you found practicing in this warmer weather?