Starting a Yoga Journey: Getting in the habit
For some of us, yoga is a little too much like meditation. There’s not enough cardio, we aren’t fighting gravity to overcome heavy objects and there’s a lot of slow talk and heavy breathing. Making time to attend class, or even turn on 12 minutes of YouTube, seems like the last thing we should be doing in a world full of deadlines and commitments. We can’t spend our time doing nothing. We need bigger, better, faster, more….
The frantic pace of modern life leaves many of us feeling as though we don’t have time for ourselves. Americans have more leisure time than ever before, yet we are more stressed than ever. Migraines, chronic pain and anxiety are all common symptoms of a body that isn’t quite meant for endless news feeds and Twitter warfare. Our minds need time to be still, and our bodies need time to breathe.
Let’s get one thing straight: Yoga is meditation. For those of us that find it hard to approach the mat from that perspective, it’s OK. We all find our practice for different reasons. Some of us find fitness on the mat, others a relief of anxiety and others a flexibility that complements other activities like running or climbing. Yogis over the centuries have practiced yoga as “warm up” to meditation. Through the release of physical energy through movement, one could be opened up to greater spiritual energy. Connecting body and breath achieves balance, calm and a clear mind. This is yoga and it is also meditation.
Yoga offers us a chance to escape modern life. Whether it’s 10 minutes, two hours or a weekend retreat, yoga is an instant vacation. It is the feeling of the mat beneath our feet, the strength in our core and the breath in our chest. We aren’t making lists, we aren’t wondering what others think of us and we aren’t sitting in the drive-thru wondering why the heck we signed our kids up for soccer anyway.
Busy times bring busy lives. It can be difficult to find the moments we need to truly disconnect and find our breath. Because yoga blends an inner experience of calm and quiet with an outer experience of movement and breath, it helps us approach meditation more smoothly. It is a way to invite peace into hectic days. We can plug it into our schedule just like going to the gym, or attend a local meet-up just like going to happy hour. Yoga is visceral and tangible, making it more accessible to those who just can’t “sit there and do nothing.” Yoga is a balance of inner and outer energy.
Yoga is also a practice. It is a habit to be acquired over time through showing up to the mat, connecting to the breath and finding flow. Habits are strengthened over time, through repetition and association with positive feelings.
There are any number of ways to add yoga to your daily grind. Here are a few routes that can help us sneak in a little more yoga — and a little more peace of mind.
Try yoga in bed. There are a number of poses you can do in bed, right after you wake or before turning out the light. Some suggestions are seated Lotus with a side stretch, spinal twist and Child’s Pose.
Learn some desk poses. If you work at a desk most of the day, you know it wreaks havoc on your body. Try seated backbends, shoulder stretches, seated twists, wrist movements and even a standing forward fold if you’re bold enough!
Practice mindful actions. Being present when walking, driving or brushing our teeth teaches us connect with the mindset we find on the mat in the simple actions of daily life. The more you can practice these mindful actions, the stronger your yoga practice will be when you show up to it.
Done is better than perfect. Getting 10 minutes of quick yoga into your morning is better than none at all. Don’t worry about doing a complete flow or having enough time for a nice Savasana. Once you learn to connect to your breath more regularly, you’ll be surprised how quickly you can feel centered.
Amit Ray said, “Meditation is a way for nourishing and blossoming the divinity within you.” For any of us who have practiced yoga for even a few weeks, I believe we can say the same. When we step onto our mats, we step out of the world and into ourselves. We quiet the voices that noisily bombard our day. We shake the doubts that make us second guess. We breathe away the fears that consume our creativity. Yoga is a meditation. It is a journey inward that helps us remain anchored in a world that constantly draws our attention outward. By embracing this aspect of our practice, we can find deeper connection in everything.
Jeremiah Hopkins is an Iowa native who has been practicing yoga for more than five years. Off the mat, he serves as a consultant, a public speaker and an occasional writer. His Instagram account is @the_tao_of_jh This article was originally published in YogaIowa’s Summer 2018 issue.