On a recent cross-country skiing trip, while taking a quick break to catch my breath, I started to do a few yoga postures on my skis. Tree pose, Half Moon, and a Bridge variation on a snowy mountain in Vermont (finding a patch of flat land, of course). The spontaneous movement, though a bit risky, was exhilarating and I was smiling ear to ear. There was something almost childlike and fearless about it, pairing two seemingly separate activities, like jumping on a trampoline with roller skates. It reminded me that Yoga is not simply an activity that takes place on a rubber mat for 90 minutes a few times a week, but rather, it’s a way of life. Yoga can and should happen anywhere and is much more than the physical poses that most people associate with yoga.
Yoga emerged over 3,000 years ago, and actually is comprised of 8 components, commonly referred to as the “8 Limbs of Yoga.” The physical poses, or Asanas, are only one component of yoga. The other 7, simply stated, include ethical principles, personal conduct, control of breath and the senses, concentration, meditation, and connection to the infinite (higher purpose/power). Without going into the details of each component, it is evident that yoga clearly is not just about how straight your legs are in Downward Facing Dog, or how high you can lift your foot in Dancer Pose. But rather, it’s more about how you choose to live your life on a daily basis.
- Are you kind to others?
- Are you kind to yourself? – or is your mind full of negative self-talk, blame, doubt, or guilt?
- Are you connected to your breath?
- Do you use your breath as a tool to be mindful and fully present in your interactions throughout the day: with your co-workers, clients, boss, significant other, children, the barista at your local coffee shop, the person bagging your groceries?
- Can you take a moment to turn off the constant stimulation from all 5 of our senses: dim the light in your bedroom, turn off the radio and drive in silence for 10 minutes, drink a glass of clear nourishing water, sit still for a few minutes, wash your dishes without harsh chemicals and overpowering scents?
- If you can sit still – can you concentrate on something or meditate for a little while? Observe yourself and all the thoughts in your mind that we so often identify with, but in reality are not who we are.
- Can you feel connected to something greater than yourself?
If you answered yes to even one of those questions – you’re doing Yoga. One of the main goals of Yoga is to draw attention out of the thinking mind and into the feeling, breathing body. Yoga postures are a quick way to do this! For example, when we breathe into Warrior 1 position and press down into our back leg, lifting our arms above our heads, our focus is brought into the physical sensations in our body rather than the circular patterns of the thinking, analyzing mind. Yoga can be practiced in many different ways. It’s about being mindful and full of breath. So keep practicing the Yoga postures, (even on a snowy mountain…carefully of course), or take a breathing workshop, but most importantly, don’t forget to be present in your life. So often we are trapped in the cycles of re-living the past, or fearing the future instead of being aware of where we are right now and what is happening in this moment. Taking a really full and deep breath is a quick and instant way to ground us in the moment – whatever that moment may be. And odds are, it may not be as bad as we think it is, especially if we are fully present.