DEEPEN YOUR PRACTICE
Mindfulness With Matter: Learning From Your Body
Mon. Oct. 3, 6:00 am Sunrise Yoga at Fallout Yoga Accepting What Is: There Is Practice
Mon. Oct. 3 5:50 pm Power 1 at Fallout Yoga The Three Levels of Asana: Alignment, Prana, Focus
Fri. Oct. 14 5:50 pm Power 1 at Fallout Yoga Feels So Good: Body as the Tool to Enlightenment
Sat. Oct. 15 10:30 am Restore at Fallout Yoga Resting in Mindfulness: Welcome, Recognize, Witness, Respond
Reading Schedule in The Heart of Yoga
Chapter 13 The Qualities of the Mind
Chapter 14 Nine Obstacles on the Yoga Way
Chapter 2 Foundations of Yoga Practice
Mindfulness with Matter: Learning from Your Body is the next realm to practice in our Deepen Your Practice practicum.
We started with prana, moved prana through the body, and now we are taking prana through the mind and connecting body, mind, and spirit (or prana).
Previous generations celebrated a mind-over-matter, "if it doesn't hurt, it doesn't do anything for you" mentality when it comes to our body. But today we celebrate the information age where we may apply information we gain by listening to our body, rather than transcending our bodies, in order to find the secrets of the Universe that literally coded within our cells. By listening to what our body is telling us at any minute, we gain mindfulness and power in our bodies. It's hacking the system to get more by doing less simply by understanding how our bodies work.
No better yoga philosophy points to this fact better than the last three niyams, or personal inner observances listed in the Yoga Sutras, tapas, svadhyaya, and ishvarapranidhana. Essentially tapas means the heat necessary for transformation. It's anything that causes friction and makes you grow. This can be mental, physical, spiritual--anything. The next step is Svadhyaya which means self-knowledge. Invariably from that strengthening of tapas comes deeper knowledge of Self, even as it applies to physical work. This deeper inner-knowledge qualifies you for deeper work which produces greater self-knowledge, deeper work, deeper self-knowledge, etc. Until finally you realize that all of this is superseded by the larger principle of ishvarapranidhana which literally means to lay it down at the feel of God. Acknowledging that there is something larger than the small "s" self, the large "s" Self, is to take the lessons of the previous two niyamas and apply them to their greatest potential.
A simple example for this principle is running. You want to start running so you begin with a little exercise. You feel your muscles and joints, you respond accordingly balancing effort and ease and learn about yourself in the process. This enables you to run longer and faster. You learn even more about yourself, how you run, where your comfortable limits are, and even hidden things about your nature that somehow running was able to uncover. Then, ultimately you realize that running is one more thing that connects you to Source, that helps you become aware, that awareness is your foundation of being and that running was the vehicle to get you there. So you go back and run some more.
om bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥ
tát savitúr váreṇ(i)yaṃ
bhárgo devásya dhīmahi
dhíyo yó naḥ prachodayāt
One of my favorite mantras that also explains this using everything in this world as a method of discovering your True Nature is Gayatri Mantra. One of the oldest mantra's in existence, it states:
Everything on the earth and in the sky and in between is arising from one effulgent source. If my thoughts, words, and deeds reflected a complete understanding of this unity, I would be the peace I'm seeking in this moment.
In other words, if I truly understood that everything is connected, I would understand my true identity. I could therefore seek enlightenment (a clear understanding of the Universe as it is--my Awareness connected to the Universe as Awareness) through any means: asana practice, dance, politics, science, parenthood, whatever. All things are invitations toward greater Awareness.
Once the yoga practitioner learns to master a pose by combining good physical alignment, ensuring the right consistency and coordination of movement and breath to establish the flow prana, and keeps a keen focus, the practice changes instantly from merely exercise to a fast track toward enlightenment. There is just as much of an opportunity to find enlightenment by being mindful in a yoga posture (or doing anything else, that is to say) as there is in any stereo-typical modes of enlightenment such as meditation. Truly and asana is a meditation in motion.
While movement is one form of mindfulness, there are methods of mindfulness that are approachable and very beneficial.
Here are two of my favorites:
Sit and close your eyes and begin your ujjaiyi breath. Begin to count your breaths down from 30. In your mind as you exhale count "30", inhale, "29", exhale:"28", etc. If you lose count, start again at 30. If you get to 0, start again at 30. The point isn't to get to 0, it's to keep focused. Set a timer and do this for 5 minutes at first and maybe 10 or 20 when you get good at it.
"There Is" Practice
This is my favorite style of meditation! Sit and close your eyes and allow all judgements and opinions to disappear. Avoid using personal pronouns like I, me, and my. Begin to notice anything and everything that passes by your awareness with the phrase, "There is. . . " If you were to read my mind while I were doing this practice it might sound something like this: "There is typing, there is a hot laptop on lap. There are thoughts of shorting out computer because of sweaty knees. There are feelings of anxiety over ruined laptop . . ." Keep your mind focused on this phrase, "There is" and let your mind go where it wants. Start to identify with all things instead of the small "s" self that things seem to happen to.
Here's a great Yoga Nidra practice that offers physical and mental clarity