When I had a CFS crash 18 months ago, my physical yoga practice was no longer practical, in fact, it was some times quite dangerous. Standing up caused waves of dizziness followed by days of aches and pains in the muscles of my legs. Even lying could be a painful experience. On these days my yoga practice was nothing more than taking four deep breaths. Seven months ago, post surgery, once again I was unable to practice the physical aspects of yoga, while my body healed and repaired the muscles sliced open. In the pain induced haze meditation music soothed me to sleep each night. And just over 2 years ago, when I travelled to India for a Yoga Teacher Training Course, I fell out of a headstand awkwardly on my second day (of a four week course) and was instructed to spend the next week lying on my yoga mat during the class practice while everyone around me twisted, contorted and sweated their way through the two lots of two hour asana classes each day. Each of these experience has been incredibly confronting at the time, a waterfall of emotions bubbling up to the surface and cascading out, as I’ve processed my bodies inability to do the things I once could do so easily or struggled to not watch others around me, with envy, as they practice yoga as we know it. All of these experiences though have lead me to learn more about yoga, and the biggest lesson is this. You do no have bend yourself into crazy shapes to practice yoga. Yoga is a way of living.
Yoga can be practiced anywhere, at any time. You don’t need special equipment or expensive lycra. You just need you, and maybe a little imagination to think outside the social media version of what yoga should look like.
So here’s five simple ways you can yoga your life…
1. Just breathe
Stop what you are doing. Right now. Close your eyes. Inhale deeply through both your nostrils. Exhale completely through both nostrils. Repeat a few more times, feeling your breath begin to slow down and lengthen each time. Focus on your breath, count how long each inhalation and exhalation is. If you find yourself thinking about your to-do list, or a work task, or the dog needs a bath, gently shift your focus back to the act of breathing (this is where counting helps as it gives your mind something to focus on). And when you’ve had enough, relax your breath back to normal, open your eyes and continue on with your day.
For those moments when the world seems to be closing in around you and have that complete sense of overwhelm, coming to your breath can feel a little difficult. When we are anxious, we carry extra tension in our body. To release tension from your jaw, press the top of your tongue against the roof of your mouth for 4-6 seconds, release your tongue and feel your jaw relax. You’ll also find that your forehead/eyebrows will release tension with this too. Once your face is relaxed it’s a lot easier to begin to breathe.
2. Ahimsa – do no harm
The practice of no harm, to yourself and to others. There are so many tasty vegetarian and vegan foods. Search the web and you’ll find a multitude of quick and simple recipes for snack foods or meals. Try nourishing your body with a meat/dairy free snack. Your body will love the nutrient boost, and there are a few animals that will be pretty thankful too.
Some of my favourite snack ideas:
My Lovely Little Lunch Box: No Bake Coconut Slice (this one is great to make with kids too)
Smoothie bowls: Blend together frozen bananas, your choice of other frozen fruits, almond/soy milk. Top with Nuts, seeds, bliss balls, sliced fruit, dried berries/fruits, shredded coconut.
3. Karma Yoga
The act of selfless service. What can you do for someone else or for the environment, community, without asking or expecting anything in return. It doesn’t have to change the world, find something small and go do that.
Challenge: Ask yourself this question – What is one thing I can do for someone else or for my local community that would be helpful to them?
Write down your answer. Brainstorm some ideas of how you could then achieve that act of selfless service. Pick one of your ideas and try implementing.
This could be as simple as:
- cooking someone a meal (especially if they cook all the time)
- taking over one household chore (especially if one person in your house does the majority of chores)
- pick up rubbish when you go for a walk
There are so many ways to help out. Get creative and find a way to give back without receiving anything in return.
4. Positive Thinking and Meditation
Do you journal? Like to walk the dog? Sit and read? All of these can be meditative experiences. During these moments you begin to forget about all the other stuff going on in your life and focus on exactly what you are doing. Maybe your journal is simply identifying one thing that was positive or that made you smile during your day. Maybe you catch public transport to and from work and instead of scrolling through Facebook you swap to a meditation app and listen to a guided meditation on the journey home. Next time you take your dog for a walk or go for a walk with your partner/family/friends, start the walk in silence, enjoy the surroundings, watch or count your steps, allow your mind time to be in the moment without having to make small talk. If you struggle with being silent, start with having silence for the first 50 steps of walking and slowly work your way up.
You have permission to stop! Stop doing and simply be. Turn off the TV and relax in a bath. Go outside and lie under the stars one night. Go to bed 10 minutes earlier and lay in Savasana (Corpse pose). Give your body time and space to stop. We are constantly on the go, always busy. Our bodies need rest and relaxation. Our mind needs time to wind down before going to sleep. Relaxation is not just for holidays!!
One of the traps we have created for ourselves in our busy modern lifestyle is the need to always be planning and thinking ahead. If you find you are unable to relax, ask yourself this question: what can I do, right now in this very moment, to solve/fix/change __ (insert problem here) __? For example, say you are stressing about a presentation you have to give at work tomorrow or you’ve set yourself a goal (to lose weight, to get a promotion, to save x amount of dollars). Right now in this moment is there anything you can do towards your meeting or goal? Maybe you answer yes, I can practice my presentation so I feel more confident, or yes, I can eat a piece of fruit since I’m hungry instead of buying a snack, I could help a colleague that is stuck on a task, etc.). Or maybe your answer is No, it’s the middle of the night, so the best thing would be for me to get a good night sleep so I’m fresh and ready for my presentation tomorrow (so now would be a good time to put on a meditation app and clear your mind). Or No, it’s the middle of “witching hour” so trying to do work that would help achieve a promotion right now would be counter-productive, instead focus on dinner/bath/bed time.
In each and every moment, especially when you begin to feel overwhelmed, ask yourself what can you do right now? What is one thing that you have control over and can do something about to help you move forward in this moment? Do that one thing. Focus on it completely. And when you have completed that one thing, ask yourself the question again. By breaking down tasks, feelings, and goals into manageable steps your mind and body will slowly begin to relax as you create clarity and focus in each moment. Sometimes there is nothing you can do, some times the universe is guiding you to stop and relax. And from that relaxation you may reach a new awareness or clarity around a problem that you couldn’t previously see.
Have you got any other suggestions for ways to yoga your life? We’d love to hear them!