When you first start out with yoga you may not appreciate how important the simple act of breathing is. When your breath is out of whack, your whole practise suffers and you feel out of step. Poses that should be easy seem hard, your body feels slow and off balance. Steady, deep and rhythmic breath makes your body move effortlessly, assists in deepening poses, balancing blood pressure, providing a soundtrack to your time on the mat and far beyond. If you can master and appreciate breath during that hour, then implementing it into daily life is the next step. There are many different breathing techniques, but a warm, steady and audible Ujjai breath (victorious breath) is a great place to start!
2. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
I had always thought I was very aware of my body’s needs, and although I sometimes stifle its cries of mercy, (eg when eating a whole pack of Tim Tams….) I always knew exactly when I crossed a line. But yoga is tainted by the ego, which challenges what you think is best. As if your ego is a better judge of what’s right and wrong than your body. WRONG! Listening to and loving your body, not pushing through pain and respecting healing time will prevent injury and speed up your progress towards handstand (if that’s what you’re trying for). After a spate of injuries stemming originally from a severely sprained ankle, I have finally let go of my ego and try to listen to my body before, during and after each pose. Practise Ahimsa with each class and be kind to yourself.
3. LIVE IN THE MOMENT
I recently had some bad news, discovering one of my partner’s colleagues has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. My partner Chris was very upset and it came as a realisation that we have life so good but also that things can quickly turn around. It’s a lesson that living in the present moment, appreciating what we have and stopping to enjoy the small things is where we find happiness. Everything you ever wanted might just be waiting around the corner, but on the other hand, fate might have something else planned. Comfort and joy should be looked for all around the present moment. Chris and I are trying harder to seize each moment and opportunity – there are no guarantees in life.
4. DON’T ASSUME
Just because you could do crow pose yesterday, does not mean it will happen today. Likewise when teaching I’ve learned it’s important to treat each new class and each old student as if meeting for the first time. You can’t know what happened since the previous session, perhaps something may have affected their happiness and performance. It’s wise to always offer alternatives and multiple cues and ask yourself and students, “how does that feel today?”
5. ASANA ISN’T EVERYTHING
Yoga teachers always say it – “practise starts when you leave the mat” – and I used to ignore it. But it appears like many other things we hear in class and often tune out (e.g. engaging core!!!) it has some truth to it after all. You know the sense of calm and happiness you feel when you walk out of the studio? Well a piece of that serene wisdom can be taken into other areas of life to help make better choices, be kinder to others and see things more clearly. Closely connected to the breath, this state of mind can be revisited with a few deep breaths, a reminder that everyone sees things differently and a sense of humour. When it all becomes too much, sit back, laugh and know that this too shall pass.