#64: Yoga’s Rhythm is Also Your Rhythm
Work and Rest, two necessary phases of everything we do in life. Yet, in today’s world, we often get stuck in the work mode, thinking that’s the only way to productivity. But yoga teaches otherwise.
Episode brought to you by: the Energetic Rhythms Yoga Moon Salutation
Yoga is an ancient practice…thousands of years old. Yes, THOUSANDS. Of course, back then, it can be assumed it looked a lot different than it does today, yet the postures have been passed down in a way that communicates the need to honor our natural rhythms based on how the postures are sequenced, or put together.
When you think of yoga, you might think to yourself…
- I can’t do yoga, I’m so inflexible.
- I can’t do yoga, my brain just never shuts off
- I can’t do yoga, it’s too slow or boring for me.
- I can’t do yoga, I never know if I’m doing the postures “right.”
That’s not all yoga is about. The fact that it makes you
- More flexible physically
- More focused and mindful
- Slow down to be present
- Develop a more intimate relationship with your body and body awareness
- Peel back layers of yourself to encounter yourself on a deeper emotional level
These are just by-products of yoga.
What yoga really does is naturally communicate the need to honor the rhythms of work and rest.
Rhythms of Work and Rest
Hatha yoga is identified by this characteristic…the balance of activity and passivity (or work and rest as you likely think of it most of the time). From the development of a balanced sequence or series of postures that includes both postures that challenge your balance and focus, like Tree or Handstand, to those postures that encourage you to be still with yourself and recover as in Child’s Posture or Downward Facing Dog, an entire yoga sequence communicates the need to do both the work and also the recovery or rest. Even built into a good yoga sequence are larger sequences that can be used independently to communicate this rhythmic nature.
Take a Sun Salutation, for example.
The whole thing alternates moving from an active to a passive posture (Extended Mountain to a Standing Forward Fold), and continuing with an active/passive pattern until you reach the peak of the sequence, Downward Facing Dog, which communicates the need to be still, to rest, to recover, then completes the sequence with mirroring the active/passive approach to return to standing.
A Rhythm of Balance
In yoga, we need both the postures that are going to challenge us and energize us as well as the postures that are going to quiet us and allow us to reflect inward. If you don’t have a rhythm of these postures, you’ll likely leave your yoga practice feeling out of sorts or either overly anxious or lethargic. But if the practice you do communicates a rhythm and a balance in what you’re doing, you too, will feel that way.
Who You Are On the Mat is Who You Are Off the Mat
I’ve always said that who you are on your mat is who you are off your mat. How you respond to challenges on the yoga mat is how you respond to them on the yoga mat.
Same goes for how you approach the passive times in your practice, especially at the end in everyone’s favorite…Corpse, aka Final Relaxation. Those of you who lie down for what you think seems to be an eternity but in all actuality is only 20-30 seconds are likely the ones who over-function in life. You are the students I remind to take more time than you actually think you need (which generally ends up being only about 1-2 minutes that likely to you feel like the most painful 60-120 seconds of your life). But that’s OK!
I was there once too. And it’s possible to get past that, so that even a 15 minute Final Relaxation sometimes doesn’t feel quite like enough time.
Everything you do on the yoga mat cultivates those same qualities within you as a person off the mat. You need the postures that push you to your edge with flexibility and even stillness as much as you need the postures that push you to your edge with difficulty and focus.
Because it’s the balance of those postures that are going to communicate the need for all of those elements in your life as well. That balance reminds you that you indeed do need the perseverance and strength that comes from times of planning and productivity, AND you also need the patience, adaptability and stillness that comes from completing things and resting following them.
Being a warrior, taking action and getting things done in life reflects strength and focus in any situation. Resting, releasing stress and “wasting” time demonstrate adaptability and compassion in life.
Creating the Life You Want Through Yoga
So when you look at how to cultivate those same elements through a yoga practice, it might look like building strength in challenging postures or flows. And by doing so, you’re teaching yourself the qualities of productivity and perseverance off the mat. Flexibility and surrender rather than forcefully making yourself do a challenging posture teaches you those same qualities in life’s situations.
It’s a fine balance to find the edge that serves what you want to cultivate most in life and definitely takes practice.
Yoga as a Practice
And that’s the reason yoga is a practice. It’s not about mastering something, but rather learning from what your body and mind communicate with you on the mat and adjusting accordingly.
There’s an episode coming up that will go more in depth on what it means to find your edge.
But the point is, you need both. Both the active and the passive; the yin and the yang; the sun and the moon; the light and the dark; you get it. And yoga teaches you that rhythm. The same rhythm that your body innately goes through, and that nature naturally flows through.
Yoga Teaches You to Examine Your Life
When you’re intuitively feeling out of sync or “off” and spinning your wheels when your schedule and routines become tyrants rather than servants, it’s likely that you’re out of sync with your energetic rhythms. And one of the best indicators of that that I’ve experienced in my life is my yoga practice. When my yoga practice feels off, it’s likely that I feel off in life in one or more areas as well. It’s not always clear where things are off, although I wish it were, yet that’s where introspective work comes in.
Where you get the chance to get to know yourself a little more deeply on your self-understanding journey. Sometimes this can be tricky on your own. And it’s exactly why I love working with yoga students 1:1 or in small groups–I get to understand a little more where they are coming from because I get to know their yoga practices personally and a bit of background into their life so I can help them explore where they may be feeling off in their practice and life. Help them find some correlations and gain insight. Something that’s a bit harder to do in group yoga classes, unless it is being taught in a guided self-practice manner in which the teacher is working with each individual on a personal practice and at their own pace, but in a group setting.
Breath & Focus
But yoga is so much more than just movement on a mat. It’s also very much about breath and focus. And as you heard a couple episodes ago in Episode 59: How you Breath is Who you Are, postures on a mat without breath is simply stretching. When you incorporate breath, it changes the outcome of your practice. And when you give your mind something to focus on, like a mantra, you enhance focus.
There are so many moving elements with a yoga practice that communicate how you may or may not be in alignment with your rhythm, but rest assured, you don’t have to take them all on at once. It’s practice, remember?
Health – Yoga certainly has some by-products that make it and ideal addition to your holistic health approach and self-understanding journey, AND how you move on the mat will show you the areas of your life that may need some attention as well.
Harmony – Yoga teaches you about the balance of productivity and rest. If you only have 1 and not the other, flow will allude you. It’s when you welcome and incorporate both, that you begin to flow and life happens with more ease, even when unexpected things come up.
Happiness – Yoga teaches you to be content in all circumstances, even when life is challenging. It’s a part of the rhythm–we were never promised that life wouldn’t have it’s troubles, and yoga is a way that you can learn to accept and surrender to the natural flow of events in life. When your body is flowing, your life will be flowing as well.
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More Episodes like this one:
#49: The Best Way to Ground Yourself
#24: From Working Out to Yoga – How I Transitioned My Life
#1: My Journey to Adamantine Yoga*
*Although this is no longer the yoga practice I use to feel my best, it played a key role in my yoga journey and helping me develop the Energetic Rhythms Yoga Sequences I teach and practice today
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