Well, here we are, 2017!
January is often a time of enthusiasm, momentum, and excitement as we emerge from December. And while I am definitely seeing an uptick in these things over the last two weeks, I’m also seeing a clear undercurrent of stress and worry that seems a little more pronounced than normal.
January’s kind of like that. We decompress from the celebrations and wine and fudge, and then, all of a sudden, it’s back to car repairs and emails and meetings.
So, I want you to know, that you don’t have to be hard on yourself for feeling down, or worried, or just kind of off right now, if that’s you. You are absolutely not alone. (And if everything is coming up roses for you, heck yeah, congratulations!).
Stress, or suffering, as Buddhists like to call it, is always going to be present in some form or another. I’m not sure if yoga actually lowers the amount of stress that we experience, but I do think that yoga increases our ability to experience stress in a healthier way.
Turns out I’m not the only one to come to this conclusion! Science has, too!
The article, published in Forbes, states,
“ “Mindfulness does not necessarily reduce negative thinking or negative emotions, but, rather, the attentional control that is developed through meditation practice helps people deal with the negative thoughts more quickly.” ….Research...suggests mindfulness gives you the ability to more readily identify the negative thoughts and exit the merry-go-round that often follows from focusing on negativity. “
Yes! That’s great! The more we show up on the mat, the more we strengthen our ability to tolerate the utketasanas, the wobbly balances, the tightness in our muscles, and the general muck--and pull ourselves out of negative mental loops that aren’t helpful.
I keep coming back to the image of this giant rock off the coast of Cannon Beach in Oregon, where I used to go sometimes when I lived in Portland. And let me tell you, that thing is not going anywhere. It just sits there and lets itself get battered by waves and wind and bird poop. Over time, the waves smooth out some of the rock’s rough edges. Yoga can be like that. We can be like that. The birds will keep pooping on you sometimes, though. That’s just the nature of being alive.
So that’s yoga! The trick is to keep showing up on the mat, even when things are rough and you know the birds are going to poop on you, and even when things are amazing and the water’s calm. Sometimes the bird poop is going to feel more like a personal attack, but it’s not. That’s just part of the deal for getting to hang out in this body--sometimes things are messy.
We’re all learning, by showing up on the mat, however often we do, to notice how we’re feeling in our bodies, minds and hearts. And one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that my yoga practice shifts with me. Sometimes I need it to be more grounding. Sometimes I need to push myself harder. Sometimes I need to sneak in a 5-minute meditation outside the studio in my car, so that I’m better able to hold space for you all. Sometimes I pull up outside of the studio blasting loud music and dancing in my car because the day really is that awesome. It all depends on how my body and mind are today, at this moment.
Sometimes the only barrier to getting on the mat is our mind, or our schedule, But it can be even harder to get on the mat if your nose is stuffed up from crying. So, try 3-4 upright poses, and a few minutes of seated meditation. Sometimes movement feels like too much when you just want to hide in bed. So, be still, and gentle, stay in bed, bring your feet together into baddha konasana and breathe to a favorite song for 5 minutes. Sometimes
Keep showing up. Keep coming back to the breath. We’re all on this path together.