Connecting to your truer self in the simplest of ways
If you're one of those people who make it to your mat day in, day out, I salute you.
I'm coming out of a week or so (OK, a month) where I barely practiced. I can give you reasons why. But, as we know, they're excuses.
Anyway, I'm back now.
The frustrating thing is that, when I do get back on the mat, I wonder why I ever took a time out from my practice.
I think my problem is that I've still got to learn the difference between pushing myself to practice and waiting for my body to transport me to my mat and, without hesitation, begin.
There's a clue to the challenge I, and maybe you, face in that sentence. I write about my body as if it's separate from me.
This morning, as I lay in savasana after my home practice, I found myself remembering a conversation I had with Sat Dharam Kaur, co-developer of the Beyond Addiction programme which helps individuals 'develop healthy habits and overcome addictive behavior'. I was interviewing her for Om yoga and lifestyle magazine.
One of the aims of the programme is to return the addict to their true self. 'I don't believe I have a true self,' I said.
'What I'm speaking about is beyond the mind,' Sat Dharam said.
Now, while I still don't accept that I have a true self, I do understand that I have a truer self - maybe it's my mind in my body - and it's this that gently compels me to go back to my mat and practice again.
This morning, for a reason my body knows, I began my practice with alternate nostril breathing which I very rarely do.
Alternate nostril breathing improves respiratory function, lowers the heart rate and reduces stress and anxiety. (Apparently, Hilary Clinton did a few rounds after she lost the presidential election.) It also stills the mind.
And that's why my truer self led me to practice alternate nostril breathing. After this, I found it natural to surrender to my practice.
If you're finding it challenging to get back on your mat, why not try simple alternate nostril breathing:
Sit in easy sitting pose, slightly raised on a blanket or block if you like, and imagine a silver cord attached to the ceiling is pulling your spine straight, tuck in your chin slightly. Rest your left hand on your left knee, palm upwards to receive energy. Leave it there. Close your eyes.
Close your left nostril with the ring finger of your right hand and breathe in deeply through your right nostril for a count of four.
Close your right nostril with your thumb and breathe out through your left nostril for a count of eight.
Breathe in through your left nostrl for a count of four, close your nostril with your ring finger and breathe out through your right nostril, counting to eight.
Repeat five to ten times.
I'm a shallow breather so I'm comfortable practicing alternate nostril breathing as I've described. If you like, try stopping up both nostrils in between in and out breaths for a count of four. You could also try increasing the amount of time you breathe out in multiples of four.
But don't do anything that makes you strain to breathe.
Try it. You might find that, like me, after practicing alternate nostril breathing you feel compelled to move and find yourself in savasana some time later not quite knowing how you got there.
If you have a second...
I invite you to ask me about how yoga for writers can bring you back to your creative practice and enjoy a free 30-minute session. Please go here.
If you have another second...