I get why people talk about yoga losing its way, at least here in the western world. We focus on the twists and binds of the practice and brush aside that part that might actually help and get us there faster, not as a goal, but as a result of letting go. Sort of like when you try to touch your heels to the floor in down dog and realize it is not a goal, but a result of proper alignment of hips, engagement of core, shoulders, and lots and lots of practice.
While I can’t say it doesn’t make me feel fancy to bind, contort, and twist myself some days, I know there is harder work. For me it is sitting still and bringing myself to a more meditative mind. However, it is a balance, the one bringing you into the other and connecting all the pieces of you into whole. So it really is about losing your head, letting go of all the things that tether you, putting yourself directly into your body and then using that to relax, let go, and draw peace from it.
Here are four ways to loosen you from the physical aspects of yoga to use it for its true intention: bringing harmony, peace, and body/mind connection.
Take a few minutes to unwind before your practice.
Some days, you have no choice but to run from work and rush into your class. That’s likely cool with your teacher, but you’ll spend half of the class just settling in. Better to catch your breath a bit beforehand if you can plan it in.
Keep your eyes on your own mat.
Really focus on what feels right in your body. That doesn’t always mean you can’t push an edge, just remind yourself of your edge, not someone else’s. Best to keep your blinders on, with the exception of watching your teacher for form and safety.
There is a reason your flow teacher reminds you to inhale and exhale. It’s sort of like counting sheep; it takes your focus off laundry to be done, kids to be picked up, and proving yourself to your boss. It lulls you into a fully awake, but calm, state.
Forget your yoga pants.
Not literally. Please stay covered up. Keep your clothing tug-free even if you spend a couple of extra bucks. You can’t think about using the postures to draw the mind’s attention to how the body feels when it is in them when you are pulling your pants up or shirt down every few seconds. Good, comfortable clothing should make you forget you have them on and are worth it to really, really enjoy your practice.
Your practice’s goal is to get you ready for the mother pose, savasana, so that you relax, find peace, and really lose those thoughts in your head. Let me know in the comments below what you do to “unbind” and lose yourself.