What Yoga is Teaching me

 

  1. Presence: Follow the Butterflies

“Problems can’t exist within the present moment” – Echart Tolle

Our attention goes where our focus are. If you know me for the last 5 to 7 years you might not believe that I once had a considerable amount of negativity I was carrying around with me. 

A kind trainer / coach made the suggestion to me to “follow the butterflies” 

This was enough to trigger my curiosity. Soon after the suggestion was made I started noticing a lot of butterflies in my immediate environment. 

Upon further reflection I began to understand the importance of how thoughts and focus influence the quality of our lives. If we focus on butterflies, that is what we will attract. Conversely so, focusing on negative aspects or things that is out of our control, it perpetuates the same feeling of frustration and not being able to change the situation.

On the yoga matt you must stay present in order to be able to perform the asanas. You stay present through connecting to your breath. I believe that is partly why yoga became such an enlightening experience to me. Rarely do we experience such a sense of presence in our daily lives. Truly an experience to treasure and try replicating in our daily lives.

I believe the way to achieve that off the yoga matt is to connect to our breathing. Breathing transcends us back to the present moment. It also allows us to make more calculated decisions in terms of how we would like to respond to life’s challenges. 

  1. Consciousness

The moment I step onto the yoga matt I become more aware of my body, as well as my mental state. As an enneagram (https://www.wepss.com) type 7 I find it hard to connect to my own feelings. It’s much more comfortable to connect to my thoughts (Head vs Heart).

Therefore, YOGA provides a unique experience to me for reconnecting my body, mind and spirit. 

Being more connected with my own thoughts and feelings also helps me off the matt to be more congruent in how I behave. I am able to respond more authentically to problems, questions, challenges. It becomes easier to express how or what I really feel like about certain matters. 

  1. Emotional Management

I have always been a bottler. It was the example I grew up within our Anglo Saxon community in South Africa. I actually believed that not having outbursts was demonstrating emotional management. Little did I realise the impact of this on relationships. (http://www.susandavid.com/new-index/)

When I am on the yoga matt I often experience an unlocking / release of emotions which was most likely bottled up until that stage. I believe asanas, pranayama and kris help us release some emotions that no longer serve us. By doing so we are restoring energy so that we can move forward in life feeling fully recharged.

  1. Resilience: comfort through discomfort and self efficacy

If I’m totally honest, yoga practice could sometimes be challenging whether it’s holding a pose for an extended period or trying to balance in precarious positions. Yoga’s unique challenges on the matt, however discomforting, has helped me to face stressful, compromising positions in real life with a different attitude. Yoga has made me more resilient and able to follow through with ordinary challenges I face off the matt. 

  1. Connection

By connection to myself on the yoga matt, I have inadvertently realised how intimately everything is connected. I believe there is a real spiritual connection between all living and non-living objects on the earth plane. To realise our sense of connection we truly need to connect to ourselves first. 

  1. Trust

Yoga has truly increased my level of TRUST, both towards myself and especially being able to make myself vulnerable, by following instructions while practicing yoga. I believe I have a deeper sense of trust in the universe and knowing that everything is exactly as it should be. And that following the instructions, and accepting my current circumstances, will lead me exactly down the path of where I should be. Through my current experiences I will also be ready for the next steps that needs to be taken. A slow but purposeful build up to a magnificent “pose”

  1. Acceptance

Even if it’s just half an hour a day, the time I am spending on my yoga matt teaches me to accept my current circumstances. I believe that comes through presence. I have always had a hard time to accept things as they are. I believe it’s just that little thing called being HUMAN. 

  1. Forgiveness

I mainly refer to forgiving myself for not always being able to perform certain postures. Off the yoga matt that also helps me to forgive others for their imperfections by connecting with my own (empathy)

  1. The gifts of imperfection: Vulnerability

Sometimes, especially in intermediate classes, we are challenged with certain poses, balances that we may not be able to achieve (Crow, Crane, head stands, etc). This makes you feel vulnerable and lacking. For me personally it has provided a unique opportunity to identify with the gifts of imperfection. (https://www.newheightscoach.com/uploads/7/6/9/8/76986173/the_gifts_of_imperfection_by_brene_brown.pdf

We all have our own imperfections. The reward is in recognising them, exposing them under the spotlight, and accepting them. There is no PERFECT. The true beauty in life lies in it’s imperfections. 

  1. Self Love and Self Compassion 

You can probably understand why I left the best for last. Yoga has been a very important mirror for reflecting the principles of self love and self compassion back to me as the BEST and most trustworthy companions as part of our human experience. 

Whenever I am over-exerting myself on the yoga matt, I immediately remember that THAT is exactly the opposite of what yoga is about.

Yoga teach us to be self aware, self conscious, listening to our own body and gently increasing our own strength, flexibility and balance as we progress with our experience.

Through connecting and aligning body, mind and spirt I find the best parts of me, which sometimes remain hidden in the busy world which occurs off the yoga matt.

I carry this peace of mind and gentle understanding of myself into the real world in an effort to communicate more authentically.

In Conclusion : 

I believe yoga is a very personalised experience for each of us. I am sure that many more benefits and teachings could be added to the list…

Karin Schoombee – YTT200hrs March 2018

 

Yoga and emotional intelligence – responding versus reacting to situations

I believe we would be in a much better position as a society if all people learned since childhood what the difference is between reacting to a situation or responding to a situation they are experiencing. 

What is the difference then anyway?

I think that most people would like to act more responsibly, feeling that they acted according to their personality, beliefs and convictions. That however requires that you can create sufficient space between the observation and your response, so that you have sufficient time to consider what you really would like to do. That is the true ability to respond meaningfully. That does not necessarily mean that the delay needs to be long, you just want to be able to think about your response before you act. That is what “masterful living” is all about! 

Our objective in life should be to never regret what we said or did. While this might be a lofty goal, I think you would agree that it would be beneficial if we could get closer to this ideal. Let’s now explore this a bit further.

Let’s start from the beginning. Behaviour is a result of our thoughts and feelings. Every action that you take, even seemingly automatic, has a related thought and feeling attached to it. 

Following that reasoning, if we have full control over every thought, we are able to control our actions, behaviours and patterns that play out in our life.

Chemically the brain’s processes are driven by our thoughts and feelings. Being consciously aware of our feelings is vital. If we are able to label our emotions (called emotional labeling or emotional literacy) we are in a much better position. It is chemically proven that being able to admit out loud or through internal verbalisation the right chemicals are being released in our bodies to cope with the reactions in our body. 

The challenge comes in where we have to train ourselves how to behave in certain situations that might be challenging us either through external (YAMA) or internal (NIYAMA) stimulation. One of the aims of Yoga is to teach us how to be able to respond to these situations rather than just react.

In ordinary day to day life in every situation we have the choice of to react through fight or flight.

Have you ever been in a situation where you had to react in a split second as it would mean the difference between life or death (motor accident, dangerous situation)? As humans our brain has a built in fail safe button (Amygdala) that kicks in if our life is in danger. 

The Thalamus acts like the air traffic controller, the Cortex is the translator and the Amygdala is the emotional headquarters of the brain. Senses enter the brain at the Thalamus which then sends the impulses to the correct places. Normally impulses would be send to the Cortex for processing before it is sent to the Amygdala which would turn the impulse into an action based on prior patterns. Some patterns which could be identified as “high stakes” are stored directly in the Amygdala. The Thalamus sometimes identifies that information needs more rapid response and would send the impulses directly to the Amygdala. The result is action without Thought (mental hijack).

There is also a fascinating scenario called “mental hijack”. Have you ever been in a situation where a conflict ensued and afterwards you had no idea why you behaved so strongly. As a human race we have evolved but we have also been conditioned through past experiences (past lives) which often leads to these mental hijacks. Understanding this opened my mind. I could never understand why I responded so out of character time after time. 

When we REACT our thoughts and feelings merge in split seconds with the action that we deem would save our life (literally or figuratively speaking). 

Each of us have our own mental hijacks. If you spend some time reflecting on your life and experiences you will start recognising those patterns. For e.g. inability to keep a stable job or relationship, unhealthy addictions, consistent conflicts in relationships etc.

Tracing back and reflecting you will find that there is certain triggers which activates thoughts and feelings associated with your behaviour which are steering some of your patterns and behaviours. For e.g. people without integrity, being treated with disrespect, vulnerable people being treated unfairly, etc. 

If you can identify those thoughts and reframe them, you can make changes in your life which will lead you to new behaviours.

Reactions are based on thoughts and feelings that are allowed to lead to unchecked actions and behaviour. In order to change that what is required is synthesising of thoughts and feelings into a best response for a particular situation. 

Normally what is required is a few deep breaths. Oxygen allows the thoughts and feelings to catch up with each other in order to make an informed decision on the course of action to take. 

Yoga teach us to be in touch with our breath as part of the Pranayama practice as well as our Asana practice. Our breath is the life force and we keep returning to that. Hearing our own breath proves that we are present within that moment.

Yoga asanas also teach us to be comfortable with the discomfort we might be experiencing as we know that it’s temporary. It teaches us the resilience (mental, physical, spiritual) we require for the modern day lifestyle and challenges. 

Challenge yourself this week ahead by:

  • Develop a good understanding of your authentic self, how you want people to see you. 
  • Develop an understanding of your own values
  • Start to feel and label your emotions
  • Take stock every morning / evening to see which situations in your day lead you to react      and under which situations you responded. Evaluate how this made you feel.
  • For the situations where you identify that you were reacting rather than responding, try   to reflect on your associated thought patterns with that. Once those thoughts have been identified, try to reframe them to be able to achieve a more desirable outcome. (Thought, Feeling, Action – this method is called the TFA methodology)

Karin Schoombee – YTT200 March 2018