One of the most amazing things about the human mind-body is the way it is able to negotiate so much of our daily lives for us without us having to be conscious of every minute detail. Can you imagine what it would be like to wake up every morning and to have to figure out how to get out of bed as if you have never moved before? What would it be like to have to rediscover every day how to lift your arms, how to turn over in your bed, how to support your weight and balance on your legs? Can you imagine what it would be like to have no language tools and to figure out how to communicate to your loved ones even the simplest of concepts?
Luckily, from the moment we are born, we accumulate experiences that become encoded in our muscles, our brain, our nervous system so that we can forget about much of the hows and whys of the mundane tasks and interactions that make up our days. However, we can often rely on this habitual action too much, to the point where we no longer are aware of how we might be overworking, or using using ourselves in ways that may once have been a legitimate strategy to solve a problem, but have over time become detrimental to our well-being. This applies not only to our physical bodies, but also to our mental and emotional selves as well. Habitual responses to stressful situations can bleed over into everything we do, coloring our relationships in ways that we have not intended.
The practice of yoga gives us a perfect space in which to slow the process of action and reaction down to the point where we can be aware of our habitual responses and make different choices, ones that may be more efficient, less harmful and more compassionate towards ourselves and others.
As you flow on your mat, be it at home, on your own or in a group class, try this three-part practice:
1. Pause. Let there be a moment of reflection between impulse and action. Even if you”re in a flow class, let there be at least a momentary awareness of the progression from the teacher calling out a transition to your first reaction, to the way you interpret the intention through movement.
2. Let go of what it unnecessary. As you prepare to move, observe within yourself the way in which you engage your muscles, use your breath, or even modulate your emotional response. Ask yourself if you really need everything that you have galvanized into this moment of reaction. If you find there are things you do not need, let them go. Let that energy be free to be utilized in other ways or not at all.
3. Make a fresh choice. As you move, do so with an intention to maintain the freedom of not falling back into habit, not engaging muscle, emotion or mind in such a way that works against you.
You may find that, even with the best of intentions, you only remember to go through this process once or twice during a class. Even so, every time you remember, you are loosening the bonds of habit, of samskara, and contributing to your own ease and freedom.
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