As a yoga teacher, the two of the most common response I hear when I tell people I teach yoga is “I can’t do yoga, I am not flexible” and “I did yoga but I was bad at it”. The ability to practice yoga is not based on flexibility or measuring the value of your physical practice. Yoga is first, and foremost, meeting yourself where you are at on the physical level. Yoga connects physical awareness to breath awareness to allow connection to yourself on an emotional or spiritual level. Similar to other forms of physical movement, starting somewhere is more effective than starting nowhere.The physical practice of yoga starts with awareness of the physical body, moves into breath awareness and encourages awareness of thoughts or emotions. Yoga is as much a form of movement as it is a way of living, and you can start to incorporate yoga by incorporating mindfulness into your daily life.
1) Grounding to your environment
One way to incorporate yoga is by using a grounding technique of noticing your feet connected to the floor. This is most easily done sitting in a chair and with eyes open or closed. Starting with both feet planted on the ground, inhale and lengthen your spine by reaching the top of your head towards the ceiling and exhale soften your shoulders away from your ears. Notice your breathing. With every inhale, press both feet into the floor and every exhale pull your navel back towards your spine. Continue this for as long as feels comfortable.
2) Connecting physical movement and breath
Another way to incorporate yoga into your life is linking your physical movements and your breathing. This helps increase the connection of mind and body. As with grounding, start with both feet planted on the floor. Inhale lengthen your spine and reach the top of your head towards the floor and exhale lower your right ear towards your shoulder, remains for two breaths, inhale lengthen your spine and reach your head towards the ceiling and exhale lower your left ear towards your shoulder, pause for two breaths. Continue for 5 rounds.
3) Pause and notice your physical environment and breathing
Finally, incorporate mindfulness by using what you already have available; your environment, physical body and breath. Begin by noticing the sounds around you, the touch of air on your skin, surfaces that are supporting you, physical sensations of your body, notice how your body is breathing, and what is passing in and out of your attention. Welcome these things as you notice them and allow them to pass without judging them. Try this for 5 minutes.
Throughout this holiday season, practice the above techniques to take a moment to slow down, pause and be mindful. Allow yourself permission to focus completely on yourself. Set aside time in your day to invite in the practice of yoga through physical movement, breath awareness or thought recognition. “Yoga begins right where I am. Not where I was yesterday or where I long to be”- Linda Sparrowe.
About the Author: Laura Sobotik, LPC