Greetings, Nourish friends in the blogosphere. Treea here. How delighted I am that we have this forum for delving into yoga matters here with each other. Lately I’ve been pondering what it means to deepen one’s yoga practice, since this theme often shows up in many areas of my life in yoga, personally and professionally.
Because there are eight limbs on the abundant tree of yoga, one could write a book or more on the topic of going deeper. Here I’ll mainly explore going deeper in asana practice, and how our lives off the mat are more fulfilling because of doing so.
When we begin to practice yoga postures (asanas), we learn the basic foundations of placement of bones (alignment), muscular actions to support those bones (actions), and breathing with awareness. We use simple postures with big movements, and we try to breathe gently through the sensations moving through the body in each pose. We then start to notice the mind jumping from thought to thought, and how the poses and breath help to calm and focus the mind. In general, we build familiarity with some foundational postures, while practicing the art of settling into ourselves through the breath.
During this time (months or years) of sustaining a beginning level practice, some remarkable discoveries are made about the body, mind, breath, and emotional heart. Our practice of the postures gets easier, some of our injuries quiet down, we find ourselves stronger and more flexible, and we feel the desire to practice regularly, based on how we are evolving through yoga. Our awareness of ourselves on every level is growing, so our inner eyes are a little wider. Because of this, everyday actions like walking, driving, bicycling, communicating, breathing, etc. are infused with our budding awareness, and so we do them with more mindfullness and open heartedness.
The next level of going deeper in asana may happen as you continue to practice in beginning and/or all levels classes, or may be triggered by your participation in intermediate level classes, where more challenging postures are offered, and poses are held longer. Also, instructions get more detailed in these classes, perhaps drawing awareness to our skin, organs, energy body, and the deeper aspects of mind and emotions. Alignments and actions also become more refined in these classes. No matter what kind of class we’re participating in, the awareness of ourselves simply gets more sublime. Instead of concentrating on one or two body parts at a time, we can hold more alignments and actions and breath in a sort of holistic awareness all at once, even if only for a few seconds. We may find that in this holistic awareness, we notice a softening of our inner heart space, where spiritual and emotional upliftment are occuring.
As we go deeper in asana practice over time, we are able to fine-tune our alignments and actions, so that we don’t work so hard physically in the postures, even as the poses get more complicated. This is also a function of sublime awareness. When once upon a time we had to focus with all our might to create big muscular actions in the legs in warrior poses, for example, as we deepen our practice we are supported by the legs in a different, less muscular, more energetic way. We notice a deep connection between the foundational legs and the uplifted crown of the head. We can stabilize our postures muscularly, but we can also expand in all directions. Our breath is like our inner best friend, welcoming us into our luminous true Self, where all is well. We begin to notice, perhaps, that our outer life off the mat is more directed by this inner Presence in what we do, how we speak, how we give.
Yesterday, April 21st, I was literally called outside by winds howling through the trees in my neighborhood. I stepped out onto the front porch. I heard loud, chaotic movement of air all around me, and watched the trees dance wildly as it blew right through their leaves and branches. With strong, rooted foundation, the trees swayed with utmost flexibility as a powerful breath of life moved them. I found myself in tadasana, my own inner breath awareness aligned with the breath of life in the wind. All became still and quiet until the next wave of echoing wind moved through the valley once again. I stood, aligned with the natural world, with breath and foundation. I felt the aliveness of life within and around me.
Today I give thanks to yoga for awakening my awareness to life’s breath and beauty. And I give thanks to the wind, for adding to my understanding of “going deeper”.