As the popularity of yoga has grown, so has a focus on the physicality of yoga. We can experience more than the physical aspects, even on the mat. This deepens us into the true essence of ‘yoga’, a complete system and philosophy to support our lives. Deepen is this context is not about a stronger, power-based practice! Deepen implies being more aware, more present, more compassionate.
One of my mantras as I teach is: If you are treating this practice as a physical workout, you are not practising yoga!
Another is from Judith Hanson Lasater, a renowned pioneer of restorative yoga. ‘Come into your favourite pose and be in it for 5 minutes. Tell me what you discovered!’
Start out with a beginner’s mind
Our mind’s tendency is to stay in habitual, comfortable grooves. Similarly this patterns not only our thinking in certain ways but our body into familiar, regular movements. Above all, approach your practice as if you had never done it before, with a true beginner’s mind. Deepen your intention as to how the body wishes to move. Experience a depth of awareness that ‘lands’ you completely within the four edges of your mat.
Pause after each component of your practice
Our 24/7 culture has us in constant motion, already moving to the next, before we’ve completed in the now. Do you anticipate the next ‘move’ on the mat, without allowing yourself to absorb your current state? Neuroscience demonstrates that time is required to establish new and different neural pathways in your brain. The real benefits of anything we practice cannot occur without that ‘lag’ time. Don’t lose the benefits of all your good work – pause and literally absorb – experience what changes.
Experience beyond the pose, beyond the breath
In our world there is energy all about us from the earth, the sun and from the greater Universe. We can deepen our connection to ourselves, by accessing this support. Deepen your standing practices by descending your energy down, whilst drawing energy up through your feet, up the body. Acknowledge the universal energy by being still, beneath any movement, being the silent witness that notices any subtle changes.
Create your optimal state
We are energetic beings and surrounded by the elements – air, space, earth, water, fire. These affect our constitutional state – in Ayurveda called the doshas. Amy Wheeler, an international Yoga Therapist, identifies in her Optimal State model™ our red, blue and white zones. White symbolises our tendency to be distracted, overwhelmed; blue our state of heaviness, lethargy; red symbolic of begin impatient, agitated. Notice your tendency as you practice and see if you can bring in the opposite state.
Mix it up!
Same same, same different, different different? Discover something new in your ‘yoga’ practice, mix it up, and notice how this adds a different dimension in your awareness or in your life. For example, if you have never read a yogic or spiritual text, find an abridged version or a good blog site that dialogues these teachings. If you think you can’t extend your time in meditation, it’s time to try! Simply add 30 seconds each time you sit, it truly is not that long!
You may find it more satisfying to deepen your practice out in the world – read about how to do this here: 20 ways to practise