Kristin Hoover, CTRS, RYT200
For those of you that might get through the first few sentences of this post and find yourself moving to click the “back” button or to close out the screen upon seeing the buzzword, “yoga,” let me challenge you to follow whatever brought you to this page in the first place. Yes, yoga is part of this post, but chances are you will find it referenced in a way that’s different from your preconceptions. This is a post about learning to press reset within ourselves.
My preconceptions of yoga before I developed my own practice (which is basically yogi-speak for a hobby that goes beyond enjoyment and into something that influences one’s lifestyle or mindset) was that it wasn’t for me because this is what I thought yoga was:
As it turns out, I learned yoga for me looks more like this:
*Because sometimes child’s pose*
Now let’s get one thing straight: there is nothing wrong with enjoying yoga simply as a hobby or as a fitness tool or as a personal challenge to see what your body is capable of. For many, though, yoga is something more than a way to get in shape. Among those that enjoy a yoga practice of their own, you will find that while these individuals experience the gains of yoga’s physiological benefits, most people in this camp would agree that yoga is about connecting with your true nature. You can practice yoga and identify as a Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, or atheist, and whatever your spiritual makeup and spiritual journey looks like, yoga is a way of pressing reset and reconnecting with self.
By definition, yoga means “to yoke” or unite. So what is uniting with what, then? There are lots of interpretations and opinions on this. Breath definitely deserves a mention. In nearly all forms of yoga, there is attention given to awareness of breath and the active partnering of breath with different postures explored while practicing yoga. Cutting edge research on mindfulness affirms the psychological and physiological benefits of yoga as a mindfulness tool. Additionally, yoga is an opportunity for the elements of our being to reconnect with one another. You could think of this as mind, body, and spirit; or as a chance for mind, body, and your true nature to re-establish communion with one another.
Getting a little too meta? Stay with me for a minute.
Think of the body we live in as a house for the unique spirit that resides within us – that part of us that’s at the core of us whether it’s a good day or a bad day, whether we feel we’re succeeding or failing, whether we find ourselves accepted or rejected. If you’re anything like me, sometimes I feel like my unique spirit is a tin can on a string being pulled along the road tied to the bumper of car with other tin cans and we’re all just clanging on for dear life, except instead of a “just married” sign on the back of the car, you’d see “just surviving.” I do not always feel like mind, body, and spirit are living in harmonious communion within my being 24/7. (If you’re an enlightened monk that spends his days levitating in the clouds and living off of air, this post might not apply to you.) It can be easy to feel like we’re along for the ride and at the mercy of life’s situations sitting in the driver seat. Or maybe it’s our emotions that are in the driver’s seat, or loud, nagging thoughts. It can be easy to believe that our successes or failures determine who we are, that a bad day or a good day is definitive or says something about us, or that what other people think determines who we need to be and what we need to do.
The truth is that our true nature is not innately yoked to any of these things. Our true nature exists apart from what others may think, apart from what we may determine to be successes and failures, apart from disappointments endured and hopes fulfilled. You are not your good days or bad days. You are more than the likes you accumulate on social media. You’re not your brightest idea or your dumbest mistake. Your true nature can’t be defined by or boiled down to whatever you excel at or whatever you’re just not cut out for. And there’s certainly more to your authentic self than any particular mood you find yourself in on a given day.
That thing – that essence that’s at the core of each of us that’s so hard to describe – that’s what I think we connect with when we really practice yoga. Yoga is a chance to un-yoke from expectations, external pressures, emotions in the driver’s seat, and life’s stressors. Yoga allows us to reset because we’re pausing and taking time to pay attention to breath occurring in the present moment and we’re focusing our awareness on what’s happening with our body and the calm our body and mind is capable of.
If you find yourself feeling cynical about this inner-spirit business, that’s fine. We can likely still agree that when we’re at the mercy of, say, our worries or inner criticisms, we likely end up in a place that doesn’t feel so good to be. We don’t have to have a clear understanding or agreement of what exactly that alternative is or what shutting our inner critic off will feel like in order to be capable of practicing pressing ‘reset’ and engaging in the practice of reconnecting the elements of our being, whatever that might look like or feel like from one individual to the next. In fact, I invite you to try this today.
Don’t worry about whether or not you know any fancy yoga poses. Just find any kind of posture that feels comfortable for you to be in in your own body today. Once you get yourself settled, start to pay attention to your breath. See what your breath wants to do. See if you can find some breaths for yourself that feel nourishing, refreshing, or calming.
You might find yourself wondering if you’re doing it right, or you might find yourself questioning the point of what you’re doing. Maybe your mind begins to wander. This is no cause for concern. This is why it’s called “practicing” yoga. Simply and without judgment try shifting your awareness back to the objective of connecting with the purity of the present moment that exists apart from your thoughts. Unattach yourself from any analyzing occurring or opinions emerging or any other distracting thoughts, and bring your attention to the simplicity of your breath. See if you can find what feels comfortable in your body in the moment you’re in. You could even play some calming music that you could use as an anchor to help you reorient to the present moment when you find your head back in the driver’s seat ready to press the pedal to the metal.
When we reconnect with the present moment apart from thoughts, we’re freeing ourselves from thoughts that might have control of our consciousness. Shifting your attention from whatever thoughts you’re having to the simplicity and purity of the moment you’re in will free up space for your inner spirit to be. You will eventually begin to hear so much more from within your own spirit without the noise of distracting or unhelpful thoughts. This does take practice, though. So reach for that dial whenever you need to as often as it takes and turn down the volume of your thoughts. And see if you can allow yourself to hang out for a few minutes. Keep breathing and keep being for a bit. Listen to within. Soak up anything that feels nice. And that’s all it needs to be. You will have just practiced yoga! This is pressing reset. You will have just untied yourself from the bumper and put yourself in the driver’s seat. What will the new sign on the back of your car say? We’d love to hear! Comment below.