Mindful Practice- not just a workOUT but a workIN
Whenever you practice, pay attention to the state of mind you are in. How do you measure whether or not you have had a good workout? Are you muscling your way through the exercise on the pretext of going deep? In a society where over-achieving validates performance and where there is a constant relentless pursuit of perfection...is "no pain" really "no gain"?
We ought to be witnessing and observing each and every moment of the action and movement during our practice, particularly our breath. Once the breath starts to feel hard and laboured, the quality of the movement and exercise is compromised. When we are struggling with an exercise or an asana, particularly if we are holding the pose for a longer period of time, we tend to grip our bodies in several places, often noticeably in our neck and shoulders. Our bodies become hard and rigid. Even our eyes become hard and rigid. The tension in our bodies increases because our breath suddenly becomes laboured. A mindful self-care practice is a practice that is not demanding of the body but encouraging of the body. Why? Because it is venturing into unknown territory. There is vulnerability and fear. There are parts of our body that are disconnected with one another because the dots have not been connected yet. We want to go deeper, to do more than our bodies are capable of at the present stage but sometimes if you listen quietly, our bodies are saying to us, "not yet". Learning the art of listening is part of a mindful practice, which is essentially an intimate and deep conversation between you and your body.
When we “muscle our way” through the exercise in a class, we literally only work on a muscular level which sometimes results in our bodies fighting against the exercise rather than working with it. We often want a quick fix but that’s all it is- a quick fix. Most of the time these fixes are temporary and not sustainable. That is why so many people get the results they want initially and lose it after some time.
Look out for signs from the body to go into the depth softly and gently. Find the balance and stability in your poses. Allow the breath to be the messenger of your awareness of where and what your are placing your focus on.
The breath is our body’s innate intelligence. Notice if your breath is rigid or soft and welcoming. The quality of our breath determines the quality of our body’s movement and it’s ability to embrace new experiences. Invite your breath with arms wide open and into the entire consciousness of your body. Embrace the spaciousness it then creates.