Where the Practice Meets the Road...
Written by: Siri Shiva Singh.
How many times have you heard the story of the yogi rushing to class stressed out to get a taste of the calmness that comes with the yoga practice? I often share with my students the idea that the subconscious mind does not know the difference between that which is perceived and that which is real. One of the amazing things about practicing yoga is that you are training the mind; quite literally recondition the mind and how it processes information and life experiences.
When you find yourself hanging out in an asana just a little bit longer than you'd like to be there, doing one more chaturanga than your arms can handle or you do a check in only to find the mind wondering through fields of gold... this is the time to take that deep inhale and focus on the breath. When you take this moment to re-center the mind and anchor your practice on your breath, you're not just being a "good yogi" you're literally rewiring the brain. A type of mental calisthenics if you will, this continuous re-centering begins to recondition the mind to consistently respond in a predictably way to external stimuli.
What do I mean? The brain in moments of exhaustion only sees 'stressful situation' on the body. Your response in this controlled environment other wise know as a yoga class will determine your responses in life. If you hold your breath and become rigid during your practice trying to force your way deeper into a pose you are training the mind/body to hold, grip and be uptight in stress filled situations. On the other hand if you can cultivate the conscious practice on your mat to, "return to the breath", release tension and relax into the moment you'll begin to see the benefits of this practice showing up in your life.
This idea of conscious breathing translates directly off the mat. Since the human being is a creature of habit what you are doing by continuously returning to the breath is teaching the mind/body how to react to stressful situations. We are consciously forming a response pattern while in our practice which says instead of panicking, finding the breath becoming short and shallow we see it becoming longer, slower and more relaxed in the midst of this experience.
We show up for our practice daily to reaffirm this way of being, to cultivate the mental muscle of calmness and tranquility. The payoff!? Because we are living in the city and not in the hills in a cave, the next time you get cut off, your boss is yelling at you or your running late the response is to, 'return to the breath'. This response may by you the time need to make higher more rational decisions. This is what we cultivate in our yoga practice, the ability to be all that 'I AM'. We gain composure, and stand in the luminescent expression which is our natural nature. Divinity!