Our Body is always in the present moment. So is our Breath. However, it’s often our Mind that is elsewhere – absorbed in past memories, or future plans. As a result, we can sometimes move through life feeling disconnected – from our Body, and ourselves.
The practice of Hatha Yoga invites us to reconnect. To directly experience the freedom of the Present Moment – through the amazing and intuitive tool of our own Body-Mind, and the practice of embodied Asana (the physical postures of Yoga).
Over the years, we may have developed a particular, limited ‘view’ of our Body – how it appears or looks, or how it functions (or doesn’t); or, what it seemingly can or can’t do. Yoga invites us to look again. To feel into our physical sense of self, from a totally different perspective. Without judgement, without competing, Yoga asks us to begin from wherever we are.
A powerful and precious gift
From a Hatha Yoga perspective, we see the Body as a wonderful gift – a powerful and precious tool for understanding ourselves. Not to mention a powerful way to help us improve and optimise our health, increase our vitality (Prana), and discover a lasting experience of harmony and Wellbeing!
Rather than identifying with the Body (in a negative way), we learn to embrace the Body with equanimity and mindfulness – accepting all that it is. In this way, it can become one of our greatest teachers.
Embodied Asana – The perfect place to start!
Of course, the wholistic teachings of Yoga also remind us, that we are not ‘just’ this physical Body! But, it’s also made clear that this is the perfect place to begin, to understand ourselves – and all of Life, a little more.
In class over the past few months, we’ve been exploring certain Asana more deeply, and this has naturally brought up questions and insights from students. In all instances, these observations have come from feeling into the body, and developing a subtler awareness of what is aligning, lengthening, opening, contracting, supporting, releasing. Students are noticing how they’re feeling as they move, and while they are ‘still’. They’re noticing the energetic qualities that arise during and after each posture, and the flow in between. They’re noticing thought patterns. And, as each Asana is explored, this natural curiosity and Self Enquiry continues to unfold…
No matter where we are in our life’s journey, there’s always great benefit when we come to our Yoga practice, with what Zen Buddhists call a ‘Beginner’s Mind’. In this way, we can make fresh, new discoveries and insights about ourselves, and Life. It is this depth of Self Enquiry and natural curiosity – this feeling into and listening to the body – that helps to transform physical exercise into a more subtle and direct, embodied experience. This is the essence of Yoga in action!
Ultimately, embodied Asana is yet another tool for ‘Waking up’ to ‘What Is’, in the Present Moment. It’s a precious Seed of Practice that is to be planted and nurtured. Day by day.
Explore for yourself
If you practice Yoga, (or even if you don’t yet!), you can also explore some of the simple principles of embodied Asana as you move through the day:
First, and most importantly – Take a few moments to feel a sense of Gratitude for this Body, and how it continues to help you throughout each day. Try to let go of any tendency to judge yourself, or your Body. Be kind to yourself. It’s ok to start from wherever you are, as you are!
Now, take a few minutes right now, to become fully aware of your whole body. Become aware of your posture. Just noticing, not judging. How are you sitting, standing or lying down? Can you get a sense of your whole body? Or is it easier to become aware of a certain part? Your toes, hands, sitting bones? Are your shoulders relaxed or tense? Is your belly soft or tight? Is your jaw clenched or relaxed? Can you feel your heart beating? Is you breath soft? Are you frowning? Maybe you’re smiling!
It’s through the practice of Yoga, that we learn to transform these simple observations into deeper states of Wellbeing. Yoga helps us to develop a more subtle and intuitive awareness of our entire Body. We learn Asana (postures) and techniques to cultivate vital energy (Prana), and improve our physical health – from the inside, out. Over time, this clear light of awareness begins to reveal a vibrant and ever-present Aliveness – of Body, Breath and Mind!
Exploring in this way, we begin to reconnect with ourselves – to experience what it means to be truly alive – ‘embodied’ and fully present – in each and every moment…
(Yoga Nature is dedicated to helping people reconnect with the essentials of Wellbeing. Through Yoga, we explore ways to embrace the fullness of Life – by bringing health to our Body, an ease to our Breath, clarity to our Mind, and more openness and harmony into our Heart.)
Image by Andrew: In the moment ~ embodying Krounchasana (Heron Pose).