Unlocking the Hidden Power of Yoga

UNLOCKING THE POWER

If the mind is still, we’ll see within ourselves an undistorted reflection of our true nature. Like looking into a calm, quiet lake, we’ll see that which is within it as well as that which is above it. Love, beauty, compassion, kindness, and trust. To be established in a place of deep trust is to perceive life as it is – an integrated whole, a state of yoga.

One of the biggest changes I started experiencing after practicing yoga for a while was the disappearance of pre-occupied thoughts with the outer world. Growing up, I played a lot of competitive sports, and some of them were team sports. I remember times when we went to a volleyball tournament and our team of girls was excitedly observing our opponents. We were collecting every little bit of information about their looks and attitudes. Then our grandiose thoughts started soaring, how we would be able to succeed and win the tournament.

“At age 20, we worry about what other people think of us, At age 40, we don’t care what they think of us, At age 60, we discover they have not been thinking of us at all. ”

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I found myself doing the exact same thing on my yoga mat. I took a comfortable seat on my mat and started observing my so-called opponents: “She has a lot of flexibility – she may be a gymnist” or “I really like her yoga mat; I wonder where she got it” or “What a show-off.” For some reason, the more I returned to my yoga mat, the less time I spent thinking about other people. Moreover, the hour that I spent on the yoga mat started to become more centered and peaceful than my time off the mat until the engagement with the outer world completely dropped. This was such a wonderful experience. It was a true quality that I obtained through my yoga practice. Not worrying about anyone else. It’s just me, and my breath. Nothing else matters: How many people are in the room, what the room temperature is, what brand of clothing we wear, and most importantly, what other people think of you or your practice.

What a liberation! I am sharing this with you as I would like to encourage you to practice or start practicing yoga no matter what your beliefs are. I have met so many people who wanted to try yoga but hadn’t because they believed that you must be a certain way. Their belief system put a hold on their trying out something different. The first thing I generally hear is “But I’m not too flexible.” Yoga welcomes you the way you are. It will teach you a lot about self-acceptance, and therefore it creates a sense of inner peace. We go to yoga to gain more flexibility, not only physically but mentally. Once you realize this concept in your practice, you’ll become more confident about starting many new things. As the physical body is stretched, so is your mind. It’s very wonderful as you realize that there are no real limits, just your imagination.

Secondly, when I mention yoga, I hear someone say, “I know yoga. I heard of Bikram Yoga. It’s super-hot in the room and teachers yell at you.” That sounds more like a boot camp to me. Although I practiced Bikram yoga a few times, I don’t fancy practicing in an extremely hot environment. I also learned in exercise physiology that working out in a hot environment puts lots of stress on the body. I don’t know about you, but I go to yoga to experience a sense of relaxation, not to create more tension and inflammation. Bikram yoga got extremely popular in the West mainly because it was one of the first types of yoga studios. I know many people get addicted to it and will practice seven days in a row while others absolutely hate it. I would like to invite you to explore a wide variety of yoga styles and teachers. The well-known yoga styles are Hatha, Ashtanga, Iyengar, and Vinyasa. Hatha and Iyengar are great practices to learn the basics of yoga and to learn modifications with yoga props such as blocks, blankets, and belts. Try out many teachers and see which one of them resonates with the current yoga needs you have. Many times, we must remind ourselves to doubt the beliefs that have been forced upon us by others. Whatever our beliefs are – Bikram yoga will help me lose weight and so on – we must question them over and over, and discard them when we find out that other styles are just as good and that there is always something to learn.

Lastly, I hear a lot of words on “Instagram yogis.” I often hear from students that they would like to do a pose they saw on Instagram but they don’t think they can, or they’re too intimidated. All the poses on Instagram are beautiful and very moving. It’s actually a very good way to visualize a pose and progress towards it. However, we often forget that some of the practitioners may have been practicing for years to do a certain pose or they may have a dance or gymnastics background which helps make the pose very available. We’re seeking those instant gratifications – wouldn’t it be so cool if we could snap a photo in a great arm-balancing pose and Instapost it? But in the real world, a meaningful journey doesn’t come from instant gratification. It comes from many hours of practice and true discipline while enjoying a beautiful path. Yoga is so much more than a pose itself. The Asanas or poses were practiced making the body more flexible so you can sit longer while meditating. I’m sure it has happened to many of us that our legs fall asleep in meditation and we’re no longer meditating as our minds become pre-occupied with the pain we’re experiencing. So, we practice opening the ankles, the knees, and the hip joints and we can sit longer in a blissful state waiting for enlightenment to happen. Yoga is all that you can’t see. It’s a work inward, and there is no media which can offer a slight reflection of it. Hopefully, some of our concerns have been alleviated, and we’re ready to dive into the yoga world.

GROUNDING

Some of the most important stepping stones towards a well-balanced yoga practice are grounding and centering. I always recommend that everyone starts his or her yoga practice with some grounding exercises. Grounding helps you experience that deep trusted connection with Mother Earth. We often get out of touch as we walk, having little to do with nature. There are hardly any trees and animals around our living habitat. Instead of walking on fresh soil, we walk on paved roads. Instead of culturing our lands while breathing the fresh air we sit in our man-made buildings, surrounded by power lines, under electric lights. We rarely eat fresh whole foods cultivated from our land. Instead, we’re eating food that’s been prepared and neatly packaged. We may notice that we’re ungrounded when: we feel lost and wandering without a plan, we feel lonely even with people around us, we feel very empty or have a general sense of apathy, or we feel physically tired, lacking overall energy. We can experience being ungrounded not only when we’re out of touch with nature, but when we feel out of control due to several factors. According to Josephine Ferraro, LCSW, NYC psychotherapist: “We all go through difficult times at various points in our lives. Often, these are times when we can’t control what is going on around us.” We may experience chronically or partially being ungrounded due to a variety of conditions, some of which include:

– Unhealed past physical or emotional traumas,

– Unwillingness to confront the darker aspects of the subconscious mind,

– Excessive use of alcohol, drugs, and other substances,

– Over-consumption of television and other forms of digital entertainment,

– Too much “cleansing”/calorie-restrictive dieting, and more.

To maintain physical, mental, and emotional well-being, we must stay emotionally grounded. I would like to introduce some of the many techniques to reconnect body and mind and experience a sense of peace and harmony. Remember, you can always use these practices any time of the day when you feel off or out of touch. It doesn’t have to happen at the beginning of a yoga practice or meditation. I also enjoy practicing grounding exercises before I enter a room full of people. I like to drop any ideas and assumptions about how the upcoming event should be. This allows me to experience the very moment, keep an open mind, and experience the moment as is.

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