A Yoga Pathway for Keeping it Real
When asked yesterday to write a post on yoga for self isolation I immediately began to compile a list of common yoga wellness techniques. I contemplated the use of breathing practices, asana, journaling, meditation, laughter, music, nature walks, and creative pursuits appropriate for this purpose. As I was organizing my thoughts and ranking activities by relevance, I realized that this was an impossible task. How could I possibly know what any one person in isolation needs right now? Of course, I could not. I remembered however that I do know someone who does know. So instead of creating a list of things to do (or not do) in isolation, I thought I would instead introduce you to the person with all the answers, and help you listen to them. Hint: It is you!
Yogi Tip #1: Tune In
What is needed to thrive in any situation varies from person to person (and moment to moment). Adding to this complexity is the fact that most of the time we don’t actually know what we need! The three-breath practice below is designed to help you find out.
First close your eyes, inhale a wave of breath, exhale and imagine that wave releasing your body and mind. And now begin.
Beath 1: Body Awareness Inhale and tune in to your body. Visualize your body filling with your breath and become aware of all the sensations in your body. This is a non-judgemental curious sweep. Exhale and imagine your body settling into ease.
Breath 2: Mind Awareness Inhale your breath into your mind. Imagine your brain filling with this breath. Exhale to release your brain into ease.
Breath 3: Heart Awareness Inhale to bring awareness to your heart center. Exhale to visualize this space relaxing and opening up. Ask yourself what you need right now? Maybe you want to pause and breath here for a while longer to wait for an answer or possibly you know immediately what you need. To move? To lie down? To breath fresh air? To connect with someone?
Social media is full of wrestling indignant opinions on whether we should be active or inactive right now. Don’t get caught up in the extremes. There is no right or wrong way to proceed. You are now, and will forever be, the only person who knows exactly what you need.
Yogi Tip #2: Give Permission
This tip is every bit as important as the first. Without it, your tune-in is not going to be of much use. There are a lot of different emotions being felt right now. Be kind to yourself. Does your tune-in inform you that you need to cry? Take a nap? Move? Do you need a break from your kids/partner? If so, feel it and do it (even if you just lock yourself in the bathroom to sit on your vanity counter for a few breaths). The most important thing to do when you learn exactly what you are feeling is to greet it with unconditional compassion, interest, and acceptance.
Jung wrote that the modern man lives in endless transgressions against his instincts. While we may resist certain feelings, the reality is that it is natural to feel angry, sad, lonely, happy, etc. It is also ok to notice it and to feel it. Before doing the three-breath tune-in above commit yourself to non-judgmental acceptance of whatever you discover. If you feel like napping for example, resist the urge to think, “but really I should go for a run”. In this unusual time when we are unable to welcome physical guests into our home I suggest we follow the sage words of Jellaludin Rumi, and instead practice welcoming all of our internal guests. I provide his beautiful poem, The Guest House, below to further inspire. Enjoy
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
— Jellaludin Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks