The Yoga of Self Care
May 2, 2018
Yoga is the art of relationship. We find new innovative ways through asana and meditation to explore the wild terrain of our bodies and minds. In a greater sense, it gives us the insight to relate to the world around us in a more present and productive way. For me, yoga has always been a practice of compassionate optimization. I ask myself- how can I gently, sweetly, with ‘sthira-steadiness’ and ‘sukha-ease’ move through the world? I seek to find practices that are both sustainable and also give me a sense of dynamic growth.
Yoga asanas and breath-guided meditation give us the opportunity to expand our attention in the body-mind to find new spaces that need to be excavated or fortified. When do I need to harness my strength? Where can I become more resilient? In what parts of my life can I yield when softening is necessary? These metaphors which become obvious in the body as we learn how to hold different shapes without being stressed or uncomfortable teach us at a physical level how we are inclined to react. Beyond the experiences we have in the micro-universe of our body, the holistic approaches of yoga and ayurveda teach us to give closer attention to the way we move through the world.
In an external setting that is always giving us more to process, we are in a time where our attention is being pulled in a hundred different directions in each moment. Not only are we subject to the constant notifications, deadlines, and expectations of the world around us— we are impacted by the subconscious input of the seasonal cycles and the sensory ‘whitenoise’ of everything we come in contact with. It is important to give ourselves a balance in our daily rhythm between deep focus and spontaneous flow, sometimes feeling the merging of the two during peak experiences and satisfying tasks.
How do we enjoy the practices of yoga in a ‘practical’ sense? We can begin to translate the lessons of our bodies into new sensory input that allows us to explore decisions and choose to exist differently.
Try these 3 awareness practices to ‘optimize’ your daily ritual inspired by classical yoga, Ayurveda, and meditation:
1. Wake up before the sun, and take a moment to notice the first breath you take. Feel this precious moment at this sacred turning point in your awareness and say a prayer or affirmation to ground yourself into the rhythm of your day.
2. Balance the flow of Energy in your body with daily Pranayama: Nadi Shodhana. ~~~~~ Practice clearing and grounding your body and mind with this sweet and simple practice. Sit on the earth. Feel the Earth’s pull underneath you to settle your body. Like a glass of water filling up, let your grounded attention rise up the body. Invite the crown of your head to rise up as your breath begins to fill all the edges of your inner space. Notice your inhalations become more spacious and complete, and your exhalations offering a gentle reminder of where you are, and how you feel in this moment. Allow your breath to feel smooth and fluid, a direct reflection of the state of mind you would like to cultivate now. Now, raise your right hand, place your peace fingers at the space between your eyebrows. Notice the gentle pressure of your peace fingers settle your attention at your third eye center. Hover your ring finger and thumb over your right and left nostrils. Begin by taking an inhale slowly through your left side. Close your left nostril, and open your right nostril to exhale. Keep the right nostril open, inhale. Close the right nostril, and exhale through your left. Keep the left nostril open, inhale. Close the left nostril, inhale through your right side. Continue this process, always switching nostrils for the exhale. Keep the breath smooth and steady, and consider a brief pause after each part of the breath for more grounded awareness. Finish with a left sided exhale and sit for 3-5 minutes to allow this grounding breath to settle you into a clear, calm state.
3. Orchestrate your daily schedule based on how you feel and what activities feel best for you during certain windows of time. Keep a journal for a week. Try alternating tasks: Answer emails in the morning after your morning practice, or save that time for creative tasks. Don’t try to do highly intellectual work or practices during times when you feel low energy or low focus. Keep track of the times of day when you feel most clear and allow the work that requires the most clarity and creativity to happen at those times. When you feel mentally or physically exhausted, optimize your time by choosing simple or nurturing activities that will feel easeful in the flow of your day.