(First published 4/10/2008)
At times our lives can be busy and even chaotic, while at other times, a sense of quiet and peace can envelop us – albeit it briefly.
Yoga teaches us how to tap into that sense of stillness and peace on command and to switch off the chaos.
This might not be easily done, but this is where frequent yoga practice can give us the tools to enable us to have more control of how we feel inside, and then in turn, how we feel about the world around us.
There is profound spiritual advice that says that “heal ourselves before we heal the world around us.”
Now this is not to say that we are sick, but improvement is always possible: improving our health, our mental clarity and our happiness, will help improve the overall quality of our lives.
Any journey will start with the first step, and in yoga asana practice we do this by first turning our attention inwardly to what we are doing and feeling at that particularly moment – whatever the posture, be it a standing position, a seated posture, or a twist.
To keep that focus we observe what the body is doing and also what is the quality of our breath.
Once we have observed this, we can then make the necessary adjustments to improve the posture and quality of the breath.
This might require more physical effort or less effort, until the ideal balance is found.
By taking the time to focus on what is happening and slowly making the correct move, we become quieter inwardly, and more alert at the same time.
These are simple steps to take, but they can be very difficult at times as well. The thoughts can dominate every moment, clouding our judgement, but by steady perseverance we can overcome the thoughts and find that stillness that we seek – however brief that might be.
To understand this process I recommend the following exercise: choose a yoga posture that you are comfortable in (that is, one that you find the easiest to perform and hold), and this can be a standing or seated posture.
Do not set a time limit, enter the position and do not think about the end point.
While you are in the posture, take the steps outlined above: bringing the attention first to what you doing. And then making adjustments to body and breath.
And keep repeating the process of observation and then adjustment of the body and breathing.
Slow the process down gradually and gradually allow yourself to become increasingly aware of the breathing and the quietness you can feel within.
This is the stillness we want to experience while in a yoga posture, where its simply you and your body and breath – nothing else.
And enjoy that moment.