I first began my yoga training at the Himalayan Institute in Buffalo, N.Y., in 2002. Unlike many yoga classes which focuses heavily on forcing the body into the postures, at the Himalayan Institute, there was a deeper recognition that the mind and body are interconnected and viewed yoga as part of a deeper spiritual practice. Rather than spending 60 seconds at the end of the yoga class in
(Corpse Pose), we would often spend significant part of the class in meditation.
It’s rather unfortunate that mindfulness and meditation have been divorced from the physical movements of yoga practice. The ancient yogis didn’t practice yoga for the sake of exercise, but rather as a way to ready the body for sitting meditation practice.
For the past several years, my New Year’s resolution has been to do 30 consecutive days of yoga. I’ve developed a fondness for Bikram Yoga, so naturally, my goal was to do 30 days of Bikram. However, this year, this posed several challenges. First, I was going to be on the road every single week in January, which made going to the studio every day not practical. Second, the time commitment of 90 minutes of class, plus getting to/from studio, time to shower, change, etc., meant that it would take well over two hours to do this practice every day. Again, not practical.
Finally, I wanted to incorporate yoga as part of my daily meditation and mindfulness practice. Often, the Bikram class felt antithetical to my desire for feeling more connected to how my body felt. After a Bikram yoga teacher shouted, “Push your body until it hurts! That’s how you’ll know you’re doing it right,” I decided this practice was no longer supportive to my overall well-being and, in fact, harmful.
My New Year’s resolution shifted from
I must do 90 minutes of Bikram yoga every day
I am committed to adding physical movement to my day.
Rather than feel guilty about not making it to the yoga studio, I would roll out my yoga mat at home to do
10 minutes of sun salutation
Initially, I was a bit skeptical about doing yoga at home. However, once I stumbled upon a very popular YouTube channel with Adriene Mishler called
Yoga With Adriene
, I was sold. She has over 2 million YouTube subscribers.
I just completed her
and I recommend it highly. It was the perfect solution for practicing yoga while on the road. Many hotels offered yoga mats that I could borrow and it was wonderful to be able to do a short yoga session in my hotel room. When there was no yoga mat, I simply grabbed a bath towel and did my practice anyway.
It’s true that I’ve noticed more strength and flexibility in the body but perhaps more valuable is that I am much more attuned and aware. When I’m sitting at my desk working for long periods, I started to notice my body gently reminding me to move or adopt a better posture.
The yoga sessions are very manageable, around 30 minutes. Each day, there’s a theme, starting with practicing ease, practicing intention and so forth.
What I appreciated about Adriene was her consistent, gentle encouragement.
As she said in her daily email:
You don’t need a lot of time, a lot of energy, the perfect workout wear, an empty space or a sweaty high intensity practice to plug in to what matters most.
What matter’s most is that you are checking in.
What matters is that you KNOW yourself so that you can have the ENERGY to show up for your high intensity life.
This is the attitude I invite my own students to adopt when they first start learning to meditate. We can get into judgmental mode—
I can’t do the posture,
I am not doing this right, I am not doing this perfectly or I am failing at this
. When this negative chatter comes up, it’s nice to have a teacher who gently reminds you that you’re only human, and to do the best you can.
I greatly appreciated so many aspects of
Adriene’s teaching style. First, she’s playful and incredibly encouraging. Also, she places a heavy emphasis on paying attention to the breath, paying attention to how it felt to get into a posture. There was no expectation that you stretch or push your body beyond your limitations. In fact, the opposite—the entire 31 days was all about bringing a gentle attitude and acceptance to how your body and mind felt in that moment.
This is is a syndicated post. Read the original at www.forbes.com