off the mat
July 10, 2017 § 1 Comment
I’ve been on the move. We’ve been on the move. Where BakeAnything has always been perceived as a personal blog about baking (well, anything) it has also been an avenue for me to pen down my deepest thoughts. How could it not? Food and my heart share the same space. As much as I would to hate/love to deny it, I’m proud of this journey.
But this time, I’m taking a step further beyond food and words. I’m going to share with you my yoga practice.
My first hatha yoga class was in 2008. It was also my first time as a waitress and the practice was introduced to me by my mother. I enrolled myself into a 6 months class. 10 years later, I’m still on this journey. Yoga was a form of soft exercise. A long stretch after the day, a meditative restorative release for the soul and a space for breath.
Breathing, a primary source of life and so often secondary to our thoughts.
Last week, my partner and I took a little break from our daily routines and escape to the Laos mountains. We ended up in Nam Ou river, where dawn mists fall gently on the tips of the mountain, little birds greet you from a far morning wake up call and they both meet the sounds of a river water flowing.
Being able to detach our human bodies from the hustle, our focus naturally turn inwards. The rhythm of our breathes slow down, our shoulders are softened and foot steps are lighter. When there is an awareness between our respiration and mind, our practice becomes effortless. A harmonious connection of both conscious breath and mental state is vital.
In our daily lives, we perhaps do not excuse ourselves enough to bring consciousness in our breathing. How often do we sit in silence and give out a deep sigh? Or hear someone take in a heavy breath when they are faced with something stressful? Do we not realise that it comes with a certain set of mental state? Anxious, happy, or calm?
To begin yoga, one has to first learn about pranayama. It is a sanskrit word of prana (life force or breath) and ayama (extension). I remember sitting at the top of a mat with our legs comfortably crossed and watching myself breathe. Isn’t it odd to attend a class that teaches you how to do something so natural? If we all need yoga instructors to teach us how to breathe, we might as well head into the delivery room and watch a baby’s first breath. Well perhaps not, since it will be filled of cries instead. But perhaps, watching a baby sleep peacefully in a cradle. The little lungs expand and contract gently, so sound and tranquil.
Should we bring awareness to sleep and awakened breathing, there comes a greater sense of consciousness. At this stage, you are at the most creative, gaining insights to truths, or receiving light. I personally find this moment rather comforting and addictive. After a yoga practice, I am not only physically better, my soul & mind are lifted and refreshed. We have experienced this moment before. After a long run, a good game fight, a rush through traffic etc. Where the mind is actively engaged and engrossed that when it leaves the moment, it returns to a stage of “normalacy”.
Asana, the physical part of yoga carries a similar conscious approach.“Posture becomes perfect when the effort to attain it disappears, so that there are no more movements in the body.” The stretches, folds, bending and transformation from one pose to another are challenging. It is an effort to bend the knees and straighten the back; stretch the arms while keeping the core tight; all these while observing the breath. When our rhythm of breathing remains consistent, so will our postures and practice. Everything will come together, just as one.
Pose begins when you want to leave it.
What does that even mean? It’s much like saying, food begins when you leave the restaurant. One wouldn’t imagine that can we? But it is somewhat relevant in many ways that our experience with food retains when we remove ourselves from the place. The poses in yoga symbolise our way of life, just as our breath with the mental state of mind.
It was a wobbly start. I admired the experienced practitioners and mimicked them behind closed doors. I fell countlessly while trying hard to get it “right”, then fall again. It is fun watching yourself fall when no one is seeing you. It isn’t as embarrassing but as the saying goes. That is where your consciousness kicks in. Why do you even judge yourself? Yoga is a reflection of your state of mind. Watch your practice and observe your thoughts.
Through my journey, I carry the same heart off the mat. Here are some views:
Judgements. It is so easy to judge yourself when you’re on the mat. That you are not good enough or as good as others. When we always view ourselves as inadequate as we are on the mat, we ultimately fail. It isn’t that we are so, it is what we pre-judge ourselves to be. Take the judgy pants off, buy a new pair that screams confidence.
Intention. At the beginning of a class, the instructor will always tell us to set an intention. Gratitude. Let go. Being present. A dedication. It is then sealed and manifested as we carry on our practice. At the end of the practice, we bring awareness to the intention again. Whether it was actively carried out or not, it sets the tone to our practice. Like anything I act on, I set an intention or dedication. With that mindset, I remind myself to stay positive and steadfast to the action. More often than not, you are more likely to be happier with yourselves.
Flow Haven’t we’ve been here before? Stop resisting, go ahead let it go. Go with the flow. Que sera sera, whatever will be, will be. The future’s not ours to see. So why allow your own thoughts to hinder you from adventures and surprises? Why are you so attracted to expectations? Let go of those that do not serve you any purposes. Accept.
Present From Julie, who always reminds us when we are in our shavasana pose ~ there is nothing left for you to do. Well then, this is exactly where we are meant to be. Find the sweet spot and breathe.
I am a little stronger and more balanced these days. My practice is not always the same: some are more challenging than others; some are more relaxing than the usuals. They are an opposite to the energy surrounding the day. A hectic day would need more ying, a quiet day would have more inversions and sometimes HIIT workout. It is a good combination of counterbalancing practices.
No matter what it consists of, it will always have one element ~ gratitude for showing up on the mat.