When I expressed how much I had enjoyed a yoga class, one of my fellow students said 'yes, isn't it great to get out of the head and into the body?'. At the time I agreed with her, but later, when doing my evening stretches, it struck me that when I was in the flow, that particular evening, I had actually felt out of my body!
This was a great feeling for me because up until that point, I had often looked at other slimmer, fitter, more experienced people in the class and felt inadequate. Old familiar feelings of negative self image had often risen as I struggled with the poses. I had connected the practice of yoga with what my body looked and felt like. I had done this when practicing at home but particularly during class.
That evening, I began to truly realise that I am not in competition with anyone else, either in yoga or in other parts of my life. I realised that my yoga practice should be less about drawing me in to stronger identification with my body, but rather help me to let go.
By practicing yoga regularly, my body is improving physically anyway and my mind is certainly more peaceful so there is no need to dwell on this. I just 'know' that this is happening as I 'go with the flow' and do the poses in a 'mindlessly mindful' way.
Natasha Rizopoulos says ' According to Patanjali, it’s the identification with thoughts and feelings that causes suffering not the thoughts and feelings themselves. So if you can put a tiny bit of distance between them and your sense of who you actually are, then life can be a little bit less painful. And your mind can be a little bit less hectic.
This is where the familiar practices of Asana and meditation come in.
When you sit, you learn not to engage with every single thought/feeling that enters the fray. Things come up and you let them float by rather than entering into a (repetitive) dialogue.
Similarly, when you practice postures you learn to use the physical body as a way of focusing your attention in the immediate present, on what is actually happening. You learn how to corral your attention so that your “fluctuations” are between events that are related in some way, as opposed to the wild roller coaster rides that our minds often take us on.'
I agree with Dr Kristin Shepherd, a chiropractor, actor and speaker when she says:http://blogs.yogajournal.com/beginnersmind/2011/08/i-am-not-this-body.html
Here's the thing. I have to watch myself and be careful that my physical practice doesn't draw me into stronger identification with my body. I know it's happening when I don't love the way I look or feel during practice. I start to measure my inflexibility and be frustrated by it. I become a jealous observer of the woman over there whose wheel looks like a wheel instead of a broken crab. I might as well be in front of a bank of mirrors in a monster gym on these days.
The challenge for me, every day, is to begin by remembering who I am underneath it all.
Do you feel that challenge, or is it easier than all that for you?
Thanks to yoga for inviting us to look deeply.