Yoga am I doing it right?
By Nikki Hambrook
When we read or hear of yoga many say myself included that yoga is a great way to de stress, release tension and quiet the mind. These statements are true. However for those of you starting yoga are you finding it hard to understand how putting your body into different and unusual positions can really provide so much benefit for the mind?
As I write this article I can remember so clearly the days when I too could not see the link. However I have now been practicing for over ten years and teaching for seven so many more layers of the practice begin to absorb into my being providing me with an understanding to benefit from yoga in more levels than just the physical. I remember in the beginning taking a class and a certain relationship problem I was going through went round and round in my head shouting lounder as I slowed down my pace of mind for a contemplative practice. I also had classes where I solely became focussed on achieving certain postures which once achieved I wondered what the point was. Am I wasting my time?
The thing with sharing yoga these days is my early experiences of not getting the practice is equally as important to my teaching as is understanding the practice. I can fully relate to my students feelings of busy minds and impatience felt when holding a simple side stretch for over a minute.
Here are a few problems that may arise that may stop you from pursuing yoga as a path for spiritual growth and self evolution. If you are new to yoga advance awareness of these obstacles gives you the gift of knowing what may stand in your way. Overcoming the obstruction is part of the whole process.
1. I can’t calm my busy mind to get the best out of the class practice.
If the mind is busy accept it as it is. The nature of the mind means it will never be completely quiet but it may be for just a few moments. If w get impatient with our busy mind then we send more attention to it. The thoughts seem louder and more persistant. To combat this redirect your focus and attention to your breath and the affect through sensation the posture is giving your physical form.
2. I can’t get into the positions that others achieve in class.
The challenge for our growth is to fully accept things as they are in each moment. Anxiously trying to push yourself further has the opposite of the desired affect. Anxiety naturally tenses the body as a protection mechanism, preventing further movement. If you have tight hamstrings or limitations in the hips then learning to accept this will help us energetically relax which in turn helps us to stretch deeper and ultimately achieve the required position.
If you firstly accept yourself just as you are then change can occur, this applies on and off the mat.
3. I feel uncomfortable in the yoga postures.
Although yoga generates lots of blissful feelings and is a real relief once you have moved the bodies tension, to actually move the tension you need to bring it up to the surface. Therefore in some of the yoga postures you may feel the tension heighten, as long as you are not pushing yourself too far this is normal.
Try to feel that by bringing tension to the surface you are enabling it to clear away so you can be free from it.
4. I feel bored when doing yoga.
We have so much stimulation in our modern day world with phones, emails and constant activity that to slow down our usual pace and remove the stimulation we can sometimes feel impatient. It is only by removing these stimuli and slowing down our breath and our movement that we can move towards the healing benefits of yoga. Those of us that lead active and busy lives are in a constant heightened adrenal state and will undoubtedly feel bored in the yoga setting by pushing through the boredom and continuing with their practice the blood which is normaly rushing to their extremities through the stress response reverses and goes to the nourishment of the deeper organs of the body. Eliminating the affect of stress leads to deeper feelings of prolonged contentment. A place where boredom is naturally eliminated.
5. Sometimes after yoga I can feel worse mentally or physically.
On a physical level yoga works to realign the posture. Think of the analogy of correcting the position of teeth with a brace it is uncomfortable for a while but eventually everything is aligned as it should be. The discomfort of making space in the body for alignment is well worth enduring as the benefits give long term comfort, wellbeing, greater energy levels and mobility and better health into old age.
On a mental level when we quiet down the chatter of everyday thought we make space for deep rooted emotional issues to surface. These need to come up for the chance for them to be cleared as they have an affect on our body which manifests in our posture. By giving these feelings space we are initially going to feel worse but we have to give them space to allow them to clear.
6. I don’t have the time to do yoga.
By doing yoga we train to be in the moment and address each task with our full attention. How many times do we find ourselves rushing around each day attempting to multitask trying to get everything done only to find we haven’t achieved much. The on the mat training to be fully present in each moment teaches you to be more efficient off the mat when tackling the days tasks. Leaving you more room for yoga.
Nikki teaches at Manchester Yoga central every Monday evening for gentle yoga at 545pm and Hatha Yoga at 7pm both classes are drop in.