* Missed that morning alarm to get up and dressed for a 7:30 yoga class somewhere in Jackson Hole?
* A must-attend work meeting is scheduled at the same time as a favorite yoga flow class?
* The first blue-bird day in a week arrives in western Wyoming and it’s yoga or a hike in the Tetons?
Hike in the Tetons on a blue-bird day or Yoga?
Whatever the reason, the moment will arrive when practicing yoga seems like a chore–SIGH–or like shoe-horning yoga into an already busy, stressful day. At that moment, all the brightness we intend to bring to the yoga mat abandons the very cells in our bodies, all the best intentions and attention fly out the closest window.
When you think you don’t have time for yoga, think again. By taking five-minute breaks throughout the day, yoga can help re-align breath, mind, body and spirit. Yoga can serve us in our daily lives. If we welcome it in. And while I am as devoted as the next yogi or yogini to my mocha–or whatever energy-picker-upper calls–sometimes I can better refocus my energy by some simple yoga practices.
Let’s begin with that breath when you suddenly jerk awake with that “oh no” feeling.
Your first inclination is to jump out of bed and race off to yoga. Instead, remain in bed and stretch your limbs as if waking for the first time. As if coming out of savasana. Quiet yourself beneath the sheets, close your eyes and go inward. Place one hand on your belly and the other hand at your sternum. Begin to cultivate yogic breath. First fill up your lower belly with breath and attention, then let the breath flow upward toward the solar plexus and your collar bones. If you have any breath left, use your mind to take it all the way to the crown. Pause. Notice any agitation in that pause and then let it go. Begin to exhale from the crown down to the pelvis. Pulling the navel toward the spine along the way. Use your breath to maintain a softness in your face. Engage jivha-bandha (tip of tongue to the upper palate). Soften your limbs and skin. Relax the shoulders when anxiety or worry begins to intrude—they will. Practice this yogic breath until you forget why you were in such a hurry to jump out of bed. Continue for a few more breaths. Hug your knees into your chest. Practice gratitude for the body you have, for this time you’ve made within yourself.
Let’s continue to that work meeting.
Work Meeting During Yoga Class? Do Tadasana and Breathe!
You start wondering who had the nerve to set up a meeting when everybody knows you ALWAYS go to the 11 o’clock yoga class at Teton Yoga Shala
? It’s all about YOU and your mind getting caught up an internal and potentially eternal monologue. Somebody is out to get you by interrupting YOUR yoga practice. The universe is conspiring to make your life hell! Wait a second! Wow! Really? All of that from a work meeting?
The second sutra of Patanjali comes to the rescue: “yogah citta vrtti nirodhah” Loosely translated: “yoga is the calming of the fluctuations in the mind.” Pranayma again is a calming practice and you don’t need a mat to navigate this storm!
“योगश्चित्तवृत्तिनिरोधः॥२॥: Yogah citta vrtti nirodhah, or, yoga is the calming of the fluctuations in the mind.” — Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 1.2
Before rushing off to that meeting, do this right there in your office: take off your shoes, stand up, ground your feet, and come into a samasthiti (equal standing) or tadasana (mountain). For this yoga asana, keep your arms at your sides, hands facing outward. Surrender to the posture, without giving up. Begin to notice your body, the tension that resides in your neck or your belly or your lower back. Begin to notice how you distribute your weight, how you tilt your head, how your fingers may resist relaxation, where your intention sags. Begin to breathe in a conscious way, first from your belly up to the tops of your collar bones. Fill your lungs with loving breath.
If this meditative yoga breath becomes easy, begin to the extend the breath, inhaling from your toes all the way up to the crown of your head. Then exhale, and move the breath and your attention back down through your body. Maintain a lift in your sternum and a lightness in your heart. At the same time maintain strength and grounding in your feet and leg. Lift all ten toes, and place them one at a time back to the floor.
When you feel truly rooted in your body, begin to feel your breath as tendrils connecting you with the earth and the cosmos, connecting everything that is and was and will be. Call on your inner strength, your inner guru throughout this yoga practice.
In Kundalini yoga, we have an invocation that establishes this intention: “Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo.” My personal translation goes like this: “I call on my highest self to show up, be here, now.” Take a few moments here and then reverse the process by bringing the breath back into your body. Move breath and mind from feet to crown, and then from belly to collar bones. Become intimate with the corners and tissues of your being.
“Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo, or, I call on my highest self to show up, be here, now.” — Kundalini invocation
Practice svadhyaya, self-study. As one of the Niyamas, personal ethics, svadhyaya is basic to yoga and to leading a balanced life. Big stuff that starts inside. Take a deep breath in and a quiet sigh out. Breathe in, sigh out. Bring your hands up to your heart. Again, practice gratitude for this body and breath.
You’ve decided to go for the hike. YES! But some residue of guilt resides in you, even as your are breathing in the sweet mountain air.
Let it go. The guilt. Enjoy the walk, feel the ground beneath your feet. When the pack straps begin to dig in, soften your shoulders and breathe into the tightness. Even while hiking, monitor the breath, noting when it becomes ragged. Go back to the yogic breath. Take breaks along the journey, remove the pack. Practice garudasana (eagle pose) with your arms and legs. Remember to switch sides. Do some shrugs: lift your shoulders toward your ears and rotate them forward and down, backward and down. Continue to use the breath during this vinyasa. Do some neck rolls. Again use the breath as your circle your head around the top of your neck. Remember to go both directions. It also feels good to drop into uttanasana (forward fold) for a few breaths. Clasp your elbows and sway from side to side. Make your legs strong and with each inhale and exhale soften your spine to let it spill forward. As a yoga dessert on your hike, you can cross your legs in uttanasana and again fold forward. Stretch your arms toward the ground, walk your hands to one side and then to the other. Slowly, slowly roll back up to standing, one vertebrae at a time.
Breathe. With a strong heart and belly, take up the pack once again and enjoy the hike with a smile. Namaste.