YOU Are The Most Important Ingredient In Your Yoga Class
It happens almost every time. Savasana comes and there are still one or two people in the room gazing wide-eyed at the ceiling, either twiddling their thumbs or propping the back of their head on their hands as though they’re at a boozy outdoor picnic. Gently, I encourage them to close their eyes and draw their attention to their toes or their hips or their heart. But I can tell nothing is registering. After class, they’ll come to me with the same lop-sided grin and a tinge of frustration about not being able to ‘drop in’.
Of course, your internal world can be a scary place if you aren’t used to it. But the reality is that it can also be your safest place. You can build it. You can clean it. You can mold it to what suits you. If you’re an anxious person, struggle with depression, or have issues with insecurity—it’s okay. Getting to know yourself can greatly diminish and cure these common mental states.
The thing is, you are the only one who can experience your yoga and your ‘dropping in’. It’s only you who can go there. I know, this sounds, like, duh. But I find more often than not students looking around the room at their fellow yogis or wanting their instructor to be the magic gatekeeper. Yes, the instructor is the guide. But to get the essential benefits of a yoga practice, you, the student, have to allow your body and your mind to absorb and melt into the practice.
So, how does this happen?
1. First, just close your eyes. If closing your eyes makes you dizzy, then allow your eyes to gaze lazily at a point in your personal vicinity. If you are sitting, a good place would be a point in the centre of your mat, just past your ankles or knees. When you allow your eyes to come to stillness, you let your mind find the calm. This is also called drishti, or a focused gaze. It’s used to improve balance and to center your thoughts.
2. Allow yourself to let go of any feelings of anxiety, self-consciousness, judgement, fear, apprehension, or anything else that might get in the way of your practice. Really say to yourself, I am going to let go and experience what comes. When you give yourself permission to do this, your mind and body will listen.
3. There’s a quote by Alan Watts that I always come back to:
“The real you is not a puppet which life pushes around. You are something that the whole universe is doing. In the same way that a wave is something that the whole ocean is doing.”
When I think of this in my yoga practice, I imagine myself swimming through my poses. It’s a very pleasurable experience. I allow the breath to clean the difficult parts and to give me the strength to build on what I’ve learned. Try it!
4. Then, let your breath guide you through your postures. See what happens when you breathe into resistance or shakes. When you experience doubt in a pose, take a deep breath and imagine it filling up that part where it feels the most challenging. And when you exhale, imagine the breath cleansing the tension. It’s like an internal bath that offers nourishment and rejuvenation.
5. Have an intention. If you find it difficult to ease your mind and come into your own body, focus on an intention. It can be big, like, “I am going to completely drop in,” or it can be small, like, “I am going focus on the sensations in my fingertips.” Find your intention or focus and let it be your anchor.
Just as everybody’s body is different, each person is inspired by various stimuli. What calms one person may excite another. Find your peace, find your strength, and find your own way to really sit with yourself and enjoy the inward journey.