OPEN YOUR HEART
One of the 8 Limbs of Yoga as noted by the Yoga Sutras, is Svadhyaya – self-study.
The practice of yoga provides an opportunity to observe ourselves. We start with observing our breath and we notice how our physical body is doing as we practice poses (asanas). The physical practice of asanas is a great way to stay in tune with our body. The simple act of taking the time to feel how our body feels brings awareness to that which we may not have noticed. We can learn where there is tightness and then bring attention and breath to that area and create relaxation.
Savasana is the final resting pose, at the end of our physical practice. The real challenge in this pose is not for the body, although to lie still can be a challenge for some, it is for the mind to be still.
Is getting your mind to be quiet a challenge for you?
If thoughts come, just let them go and bring your attention back to your breath.
As we reflect on our asana and meditation practice, we can observe not only our body but also our mind and emotions. Just as the body can reflect to us tightness in certain parts, the mind reflects to us our tightness of mind and emotions, our clinging to certain thoughts. This shows us something about ourselves.
After our practice we can then reflect on what arises during our practice. This self-reflection allows us to see ourselves more clearly. This opens us to look at ourselves as we show up in our lives.
Where are we also experiencing tightness or resistance in life?
Have we shut down our emotions in order to cope and push through life? What if we gave ourselves permission to not only feel how our physical body is doing, but to also connect with how our emotional body is travelling? Yoga encourages this self-connection and facilitates opening body, mind and heart. Opening our heart means getting in touch with our emotions. Noticing them and allowing ourselves to ‘feel’ without clinging onto these emotions. This is how yoga teaches us to thrive rather than just survive. When we shut down our emotional self in order to survive, the stress and tensions are shoved down rather than noted and released.
Self-reflection through yoga gives us tools to be able to observe our emotions, feel them and let them go. Just like we observe tension in our body, feel it and let it go.
Bringing our awareness of ourselves to our everyday habits is a step to understanding why we do the things we do. Being open with ourselves is the step to being open with others. Knowing ourselves is the step to knowing others, or at least provides us with the ability to see ourselves and others more clearly…that is, we get our ‘stuff’ out of the way.
Often we bring with us beliefs that limit us and our interactions with others. Yoga allows us to let go of the things that limit us and provides a clear space from which to relate…eventually. This does not happen as a result of one class of stretching…it happens over time, with the practice of self-reflection.
So, we must have the drive, the motivation – the TAPAS – to practice and to reflect upon ourselves and our lives. We will be rewarded with the physical benefits of yoga asana as well as the benefits that come with self-awareness and clarity.
Just as looking through a dirty old window will obscure our view, or looking into a muddy pond will not show us the treasures of its depths, looking at the world with eyes clouded by unhelpful judgements and limiting beliefs will leave us not truly knowing ourselves and others.
So, as we practice heart opening poses, such as gentle back-bends, camel, bow and fish, may we give ourselves permission to really open our hearts too.
Be gentle and kind to yourself and others. Practice and be patient, because with practice the benefits will come.