Coming to my mat has always been a space to surrender, a space where I take time to connect with myself. It was on my mat that I first learned what it felt like to embody gratitude as a way of being rather than an external expression. So frequently gratitude is expressed outward, where we thank those around us or recall the things we feel blessed to be surrounded by. External practice is a deeply valuable and important mode of the expression of gratitude, and a practice of gratitude can be so much more.
It is the nature of the human mind to wander. We naturally create narratives, fantasies and accumulate mental chatter as we move throughout our days. Certain factors can exacerbate mental chatter; stress, caffeine, long work days, and anxiety can all make it seem near impossible for the mind to slow down. We can become lost in the landscape of the mind and forget to return to the present moment. The present moment is our seat of power and allows us to access our innate wisdom and intuition.
One of the ways to support a healthy mind is to give it a break, and one of the best ways to give the mind a break is to practice breathwork. Breathwork brings your attention toward the breath as a focal point, taking your focus away from stressful thoughts.
Our bodies hold the stories and experiences of our past. Clearing stagnation and creating space in the body is essential for fostering mental clarity and the freedom to welcome new stories, experiences, and ways of thinking. Entering a new year is a powerful time to create intention around what we would like to create for the year ahead. It’s important to have both clarity on our desires and the space to receive what we are calling in.
As the brisk air of autumn arrives, we are reminded that vata season is approaching. The cycles of nature move in different forms and at different times depending on where you are located. Vata season is present during the time of year that most embodies the qualities of the vata dosha: dry, airy, light, cold, changeable, and mobile.
We live in a world that is largely created using straight lines, boxes, and sharp angles. We see it in the steel frame of a new building being built, in the grid structure of big city streets, even on our highways, outlined in colors and dashed lines. It’s no wonder we crave routine in our daily lives, the world we live in guides us towards structure at every turn. When we get caught up in structure and hard lines it’s easy to forget the natural ebb and flow that we embody.
Breathwork and pranayama are having their moment in the sun right now. The practices of pranayama, which date back at least 5,000 years to the time of the Hindu Vedas and Upanishads, are being used to treat anxiety, depression, cardiac disease, and now COVID brain fog as well. Modern breathwork teachers such as Wim Hof, Dr. Konstantin Buteyko, and others, have popularized simple breath protocols that have proven to have very positive results, free from complicated jargon and without the need for fancy equipment.
As the days grow hotter and the world looks to put itself back together again, finding the space and time to catch our breath has become one of the more daunting tasks. Much like Humpty Dumpty, who apparently had a great fall, according to our storybook time, so too do we look to renew and reclaim a sense of security and joy for life. As we each put the pieces of who believed ourselves to be in 2020 into a new way of moving forward in 2021, we find ourselves navigating life with a deeper awareness of our soft and cracked spaces that still feels all too raw.
Growing up in the “City That Never Sleeps”, I had always equated strength with energy. I always assumed the more “life” you brought to a relationship, project, idea or work, was always directly connected to how much drive you possessed. And, in order to get that “drive” or even maintain it one had to work hard; real hard.
In yoga, we learn this sacred practice is a practice toward the liberation of mind, body, and spirit. We learn that true liberation arises from the unification and embodiment of our true nature, the Self that exists beyond space and time, eternally connected to Divine Source Consciousness. And yet, as powerful as the practice of yoga may be, many of us can still feel restricted, unsafe, and many other things that do not quantify a sense of freedom.