I come today realizing, I have explained my yoga journey goals, but I never explained what is yoga. This is so very important because for many of us who are new to yoga or even those of us that are not so new, yoga is often condensed only to the physical part of it. When we see or hear about yoga, it is usually focused on daily gym classes at some studio where your goal is to sweat and work out. Like I’ve said before this is an amazing benefit of yoga, but physical fitness is not the only purpose or even only aspect of yoga.
What is yoga?
Yoga means “to bind” or to be in union with the universe around you. Through the practice of yoga, you can come together with the world around you through eight different methods. I won’t go through all eight today, but I do want to talk about three. First what is most known in western and the US context are the asanas or the postures. These are the physical poses that we move through in our classes or from YouTube videos.
Asanas can be both the lure and deterrent for people new to yoga because they can be very cool and exciting while also looking intimidating or impossible! When we practice yoga and enter into a posture we are binding or bringing together our physical body to our mind, and if you are in a class our individuals self with our community. Many people stray away from yoga because asanas seem too difficult or unrealistic for our bodies, but it is so important that we understand that perfection is not necessarily the goal of yoga and as long as it is safe any posture you can complete is helping you achieve yoga. Additionally, there are more ways to practice yoga than just the physical postures.
Dhynai or meditation is probably the second most well known aspect of yoga. If the asanas are the physical manifestation of yoga, or becoming in union with the universe, meditation is the mental manifestation. Dhyani practices can help support stress and anxiety, encourage better sleep and memory retention, it can also just help us relax or escape chaos in our own bodies. Its wonderful and while it often is practice through finding and working to maintain stillness, it can also be done while walking, dancing, singing, or with asanas. Meditation is about caring for and training your mind to help you become your best self.
The most important limb or method of yoga is pranayama which is translated roughly from Sanskrit to “that which comes first”. In yoga, that which come first is your breath. For people, animals, and even plants, in order to live we must breath. In yoga classes teachers almost always direct every movement with a breath, (ex. As you exhale, fold over) and when we meditate we are almost always instructed to “bring our attention to our breath.” In times of stress or worry those who care for us almost instinctively respond with “just breath”. And medical professionals are always concerned with your breath and oxygen levels. This isn’t a coincidence and even though it totally may seem like “duh” or a given, for yoga to work we must bring attention to our breath.
Yoga Practice: Week 1
So this brings me to my first week! My oh my, what a week! Living in a pandemic is definitely uncomfortable, frightening and exhausting and last week all those feelings were compounded by my own personal realities. After receiving news about a family member, I traveled back to my hometown to be as close as possible. Before this news, I had already been a little overwhelmed because I am preparing for a few major deadlines and responsibilities. However, after receiving news that I had a sick family member and flying back home, I had lost all motivation to even attempt to work on my projects. My anxiety was through the roof. I was sleeping almost all day, I wasn’t taking care of myself and my project deadlines were getting closer but I wasn’t making any progress. Even thinking about the future felt like too much.
So why am I telling you this? Well… one, these realities have not changed. My deadlines are still fast approaching and I haven’t even started most of my projects. Second, its an example of how real life bleeds into our imagined “perfect” lives without our permission! Third, I think its also important to demonstrate, this journey isn’t about being perfect. I know a lot of bloggers or YouTubers show us that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. These posts and videos are so valuable because they remind us the tunnel ends. But not a lot of people talk about what it feels like in the darkness of the tunnel, when they don’t know when the light will appear. I don’t see the light yet. I still feel exhausted and worried. I do not have the hindsight to tell myself everything is going to be ok, but I still have to make a way. Making a way, though, looks different, person to person, week to week, even day to day or hour to hour. Its not a clean cut process. Making a way through the tunnel is deeply personal with good days and bad days. So here is my week, good days and bad days.
Yoga Practice Details
Last week, I felt so overwhelmed and emotional and even little things like bathing and brushing my teeth were hard to do. While I want to boast and celebrate that despite my hardship, I was able to do yoga everyday, that would be completely not true! Monday and Tuesday I spend most of my day being unhygienic and lethargic. I felt guilty I was sad because I was with my family who I love dearly, but I was sad nonetheless. I was stressed about my own work, I felt anxious about the unknown and just was not doing so hot! Wednesday, I felt even worse because I was sort of feeling trapped between needing to do things and feeling unable to do them. So I did what almost any millennial does while trapped in this space, I got on Facebook. While online I saw a Facebook friend of my share my blog and her post said I was one of her favorite bloggers. And If that wasn’t enough when I went to comment to thank her for being the angel that she is, I saw a comment from a person I didn’t know. This comment essentially said that my post was expressing everything she felt and she was happy she had read it. It didn’t make my anxiety go away or anything, even though it wish it did, but it did make me feel motivation. This motivation carried me through the week. That night, I did a meditation practice from YouTube. Saturday, I walked around the neighborhood with my mother. An extremely ordinary thing that can easily be turned into a mediation practice, and by Sunday when I arrived back at home I felt a little bit more in control and a small wave of peace.
I wasn’t sure how much detail to include in my week. Right now, I do want to just briefly discuss my yoga practices so if you wanted to do them at home you know what you are looking for.
If you are interested in a meditation practice that encourages stillness this video may be useful. I also use the free version of the Calm app, but YouTube is a great place to start.
Wednesday, after my shower, I went to my room. I sat on the floor, in darkness, and turned on YouTube. While the goal is to find stillness and focus your mind on the right now, its okay if its not at first, or even if it’s not always like that. Meditation is a practice, so with more time it will get easier. Wednesday wasn’t my most pristine practice. I was moving a lot, I lost focused multiple times, and didn’t actually finish the 20 minute video, sometimes 2 minutes is enough as long as you’re trying. But the time I spent with myself encouraged me to feel more grounded and stable, almost immediately.
Moving meditation can be better for people who have a tough time controlling their thoughts, or really are not ready to be forced to feel still for a long period of time. While you can still listen to a video or sounds on YouTube or Spotify, what is most helpful in these practices is giving attention to the world around you. Trying to hear, or smell, or see, or feel the air, scenery or nature around you is a great way to help your mind focus and stray away from harmful thoughts or feelings. Also if you are walking you can focus on the sensations you feel as you are walking, feet to pavement, or hands to wheel for people who use wheelchairs. You can think about the air’s thickness, temperature against your skin. Or even allow your head to sway slowly side to side to see or smell the world around you. I love moving meditation because you are really just spending intimate time with your whole body.
Meditation is a great way to enter into yoga if you have never done so before. It takes the focus away from having to make the perfect asana and instead allows you to really focus on what is important, you and your breath.
So that’s it…
It was a really long winded way to say that I only did yoga twice because I was really stressed. But two times is better than no times, and yoga is a practice. Hopefully this week, I will get a little better. Thank you so much for reading, please feel free to share your favorite videos or share if you had done any dhyani practices.
I am so grateful to have you all here with me on my journey.