Strong and centered.
Is that how you hold warrior one pose? Stable and grounded. Is that how you settle into child’s pose? Frustrated , with your breath held. Is that how you face a pose that you just can’t quite get the way you want? These are all normal feelings we can experience on the mat in a yoga class. But how do we bring what we learn in yoga into our lives off the mat? How do we cope with challenges big and small, such as a difficult coworker, a challenging child who breaks a family rule, major illness or, my personal pet peeve, when the person in front of you at Target is gabbing on the phone instead of checking out groceries? In other words, how can we bring the healing benefits of yoga when we’re out in the world?
Tom Harrison, the senior pastor at an 8,000 plus member United Methodist Church in Tulsa, used to always say, “as humans we will all face challenging times, death, illness, struggles in relationships, traffic jams, etc. It’s not our goal to avoid these situations or the feelings that come with them, but HOW do we face these situations? Next time we face a life challenge, try standing tall in mountain pose or sitting in simple seated pose with legs crossed in front of you. Bring your awareness to your breath. Ask yourself “what am I feeling?” Allow your mind and body to slow down and quiet before you react. If there is space and time available, do some gentle yoga or sit and meditate. When we practice yoga, our heart rate slows down, our blood pressure gets lower, our breathing quiets, and our body moves into the parasympathetic mode. All of these physiological changes result in feeling more peace, joy and overall serenity.
However, when we practice yoga and energy gets unblocked and we quiet our minds and bodies, we may also experience sadness, frustration and even anger. It’s most healing when we allow ourselves to simply accept these feelings – they are there for a reason – move through them and find healing on the other side. Often when we try to suppress difficult emotions, and tell ourselves, “I shouldn’t feel sad or angry. I need to try to be happy,” we push these feelings deeper into our body, and that’s when disease or addictions can occur. Instead, when we allow feelings to be present, and we pay attention to them, healing occurs, and we eventually find joy. Next time you’re facing a difficult situation off the mat, and strong emotions show up, connect with your breath, and acknowledge the feelings whatever they may be, maybe find some quiet time, or do a bit of yoga on our own.
My family is facing two very serious, life-threatening medical conditions. My refuge is my faith and my yoga mat. I often hear God speak to me and assure me that everything is okay in my times of quiet. Sometimes I take a class. Sometimes I follow a video but often I place my mat on the grass in my backyard and experience meditation, tree pose and warrior poses and down dog, with the birds chirping around me. I often feel great peace in these moments, and I savor those feelings. Sometimes, off my mat (and on) feelings of sadness and grief overwhelm me, and I just allow myself to cry. I know that soon I will be back on my mat, moving, stretching, breathing and healing.
Namaste ~ Jessica Cunningham