Day 10 – Happy Yoga!
Before I begin my post today, I’d really like to thank everyone who has been following my blog. I appreciate the support you have given me. It is really encouraging. I am on a journey of personal discovery and change that, I suspect, will, before very long, result in some major life changes. It is really lovely having you along for the ride. It gives me comfort and the confidence to keep going and keep writing about it! If you like what I have to say you can subscribe to this blog directly. Also, please feel free to share it. I will endeavour to keep making positive changes in the direction of happiness so that what I share with you has meaning and substance – that is my pledge to you.
After a year or so of not doing yoga I recently started up a daily practice again to support my meditation and health. As time is always pretty tight in my life I decided not to get all hard-core about it (because doing hours of yoga would mean I’d have to be able expand time itself!) but, rather, determined myself to do about 15-20 minutes in the morning when I wake up. What a revelation – to take it easy on myself and enjoy my practice! It’s great. I want to do more each time but by restricting how much time I spend doing it means I look forward to it each morning more and more. If I have a bit more time, I’ll do a bit more but never enough to get bored with it.
Why do I enjoy it? Yoga (and other bodywork such as Qi gong) have so many incredible benefits and they make you feel good. I can see the ageing process reversing for one. As we grow older our muscles and tendons shorten. If you don’t believe me then try turning your hand over so your palm is facing upwards and then just relax it. Watch the way your fingers curl inwards towards your palms. Compare this to the hand of a child and the hand of someone older than you. And, to think, this is happening to our whole body! This is particularly pronounced in the backs of our legs, which, in turn, puts our whole spine out etc etc. However, we can delay this process through regular lengthening and strengthening of our muscles and tendons.
It is also amazing, I swear that as my core strength grows (and I’ve had to do this very slowly and gently because I have weak hips and and quite a painful lower back), my energy levels, enthusiasm and confidence grows. The best bit is that you don’t need to be a human-pretzel to get benefits from yoga!
When I do yoga my body is more comfortable and when my body is more comfortable my mind acts up less. Therefore, yoga (and other forms of bodywork) are an excellent support for happiness!
From the perspective of the mind and our ability to tame it (as referred to in yesterday’s post), I feel that one of the greatest achievements that we can all attain in this life is to deliberately slow down in the face of this frantic, modern world. Most of us are completely consumed with the future and getting somewhere. It is almost unfathomable that we simply stop, resist that incessant drive to ‘do’ and be still. Yoga, meditation (which can be as simple as enjoying a sunset or a quiet moment and being truly present to that moment without striving or effort) and other practices that encourage us to turn our mind inwards, if practised properly, show us how to create this timeless space where we can simply relax and be in our true spacious nature. However, like any form if exercise they take practice and perseverance to see the benefits of.
In the mornings, before work or any other activity that needs doing, I feel that pull of the future particularly strongly. It is really hard to be present in my practice if I am worrying about being late for work or not getting everything done in the day that I want to but herein lies the trap – this never ends. These activities are never finished. As the great Tibetan meditation master, Longchen Rabjam said (quoted in Dilgo Kyentse Rinpoche’s book ‘the Heart of Compassion’ pg 60) ‘Our activities are like children’s games. If we’re doing them, they won’t end; they’ll end if we stop.’ Therefore, it is important that we learn to stop. This doesn’t mean we can’t start again but we need to develop the self-mastery to be able to choose to stop and the wisdom to know when it is important to do so. Otherwise we are forever carried away on the tide of the collective obsession with future. In fact, once we begin to develop the ability to be truly present in what we do then we can take that awareness into everything we do. We can actually do without being caught in a mind of thought, worry and future-thinking.
So, when I first resumed yoga and particularly when I lie down at the end to do a practice called ‘yoga-nidra’ where you consciously relax parts of your body in isolation, then the whole body and the mind, it felt like too much to just lie there and relax when I still needed to get ready for work. Was it really that important? Yes, absolutely. I quickly began to see how this conscious practice of resisting the urge to get up and do something was incredibly important for my mental well-being – following after that incessant urge to act never ends. I will never be truly happy if I can’t relax and allow happiness to blossom. Let’s face it, happiness doesn’t come through struggle, busyness, fretting about the future or regretting the past, being dragged around by the Little Me mind that never rests.