In our modern life, we often find ourselves living with a feeling that more and more things need to be achieved by the end of the day. We believe ourselves to be masters at multi-tasking and multi-thinking. We have ever greater expectations of ourselves (and others!) and we rarely prioritise rest and quiet time. This is particularly true around the Christmas and New Year time. Sometimes we might feel like we are caught up on a hamster wheel and it seems difficult to “hop off” and take some time for ourselves. Yet, as increasing numbers of people report feeling stressed or unable to sleep, it has become more obvious that we need take time to pause and reconnect. A great way of doing this is through finding quiet time in yoga practice.
Awareness not perfection
When I worked as a yoga teacher in London, I noticed a trend amongst yoga students towards striving for perfection in their yoga pose or asana. They looked outside themselves, making comparisons with others, instead of tuning inside. Many of my students had difficulty in mentally switching off in their yoga practice, especially in quieter and more restful poses and practices. It seems that many people do not know how to stop and ´tune in´ even when they are given the time and space to do so.
You might be aware of a saying: “energy flows where attention goes”. If we constantly engage with repetitive thoughts and plans, our mental energy will stay in our heads. There is often so much beauty in the moment, if we just take the chance to notice it. Our quiet time in yoga practice is a perfect opportunity to tune into the needs of our body. By practicing this inner attention and awareness towards your body, the mind chatter dissolves and we start to ´listen in` and become present. This is essential to yoga practice. There is no need for perfection. Striving to achieve that perfect pose can lead to injury and negative judgement towards ourselves and our bodies. This approach ties into some of the more philosophical aspects of yoga (the eight limbs of yoga) such as non-violence (Ahimsa), truth (Satya) and right use of energy (Bramhacharya). If you are interested in learning more about the eight limbs of yoga, you might like to read this external article.
Finding your focus
Your time spent on your yoga mat is an opportunity to tune in and connect with that inner stillness. Yoga practice gives you the opportunity to practice finding your focus, letting go of all distractions. We are so used to practicing distraction from a very young age. There are a multitude of distractions in our modern world. In fact the digital age has brought us a plethora of information available at just the touch of a button. It´s no wonder that we can really struggle to focus!
One of Patanjali´s eight limbs of yoga is Dharana which means Focus. In modern terms it could be described as a kind of mindfulness. This focus could be on your breath, an object or a sound. In your yoga class your teacher may give you a focus at the beginning of your class or in Savasana (Corpse pose) at the end of your practice. In Savasana, I love to focus on the breath, perhaps do a body scan (this is where the focus is on the body, from the feet to the head) or maybe a practice a mantra.
To reap the full benefits of your yoga practice, I recommend that you practice focus (Dharana) or mindfulness in every moment. When we regularly practice focus (Dharana), the mind becomes more peaceful, we gain more mental clarity and generate a feeling of being grounded and present. These good effects will start to spill into your life when you are off your yoga mat.
Find that quiet space wherever you are
At first glance, finding a quiet space wherever you are might seem like a challenge. Your life might be quite hectic with work and family commitments. The key thing is to make it a habit to find quiet. Would you neglect to brush your teeth or perform any other habit that´s become part of your usual routine?
To help you keep the habit you might choose to set aside time for you by going to weekly yoga classes. Most yoga classes will include some time in silence, with the attention focused inside, in the quiet space. This can be valuable practice time. Yin yoga or restorative yoga are both lovely relaxing styles of yoga that might be just what you need, particularly if you have a busy lifestyle and/or mind. Sometimes it can be a good idea to kickstart your practice with a yoga retreat. Here at la Crisalida we teach various styles of yoga with different teachers for you to try. Read more about yoga at La Crisalida here. If there are no suitable classes near to your home, there are plenty of yoga apps to keep you going!
Taking five minutes to reconnect and find time for yourself will make an enormous difference to your day. There are lots of different ways you can do this, so practice and find one that works for you. I used to sit by my children’s bedsides at their bedtime to do a couple of seated yoga poses and a small meditation. Sometimes I meditated seated on my bed or hopped onto the mat already set up next to my bed before they woke up. Sometimes all I managed was a few sun salutations whilst looking after my young son before he parked all his toy cars on my mat! Maybe you can find those five minutes of quiet space on your train journey to or from work. How do I do yoga on a train you might ask? Perhaps next time you´re on a crammed train, take a moment and close your eyes, use your breath as a focus. It probably won´t be a full out yoga pose but it´s the inner state of connection that matters! See Tania´s relax and rejuvenate article this month with our favourite five-minute pause button ideas.
With regular practice you can reap the positive benefits already mentioned and this can help others around you too.
Appreciate the moment
Life can be interspersed with sweet moments that we can miss because we are caught up with past or future plans. This is especially true with the run up to Christmas! In our yoga practice one sweet moment can be found at end of Savasana. When coming out of your Savasana, take time to notice your body and breath, notice that feeling of connection and calmness. Before coming to the retreat, I used to see many students quickly rolling out of their Savasana, ready to run out the door onto the next thing on their list! If you catch yourself doing this, next time really keep that focus in your Savasana, take time to reflect at the end, keep your eyes closed, enjoy the moment! See this article: create time for yoga and create time for you.
Find your quiet time in yoga at La Crisalida Retreats
I hope that this article has inspired you to find your quiet time in your yoga practice. Practicing on your mat really does make it easier to find your focus, centre and find stillness whilst the people around seem to be running around madly! Come to La Crisalida Retreats and give yourself the gift of quiet time this Christmas. I wish you much peace and quiet.