To my understanding, what is really important about yoga is how it affects your psyche. Asana helps move the process of deeper understanding and self-acceptance along, but it is only one part of a much bigger system. You don’t want to get so absorbed in achieving the perfect backbend drop-back or lengthy headstand, that you miss the subtle, and in my mind, more demanding practice, involved in pranayama (breath work) and pratyahara (turning the perception inward) and even in observing some of the yamas and niyamas (behavior modification).
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because my asana practice is taking a big hit during this third trimester. Standing on my feet longer than 10 minutes is very uncomfortable and most twists, inversions or strength poses are either contraindicated or simply impossible. I know there are ways to modify a lot of asana, but most of the adapted poses aren’t really helping me right now. I kept thinking, “This stinks, how am I supposed to prepare physically for the big marathon at the end of August without my yoga practice!” (I am in love with swimming, tho…lose 40 lbs. in 2 minutes!)
I realized I needed to rethink what constitutes “practice.” As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been doing a lot of pranayama lately. The more I focus on clearing my mind and concentrating on the breath, the more I realize how useful this type of work is, both physically and mentally. You hear about the “mind-body connection” in reference to yoga, and it is very obvious when working on your breathing. As I settle into Supta Baddha Konasana, I can bring myself into a quiet, contemplative place quite quickly and can get my inhales and exhales to smooth and deepen within the first five minutes. I can feel the aches in my joints dissipate, the tightness in my ligaments soften and my circulation in my feet improve as I relax. The “fluctuations of the mind” (what pranayama is suppose to control) still flutuate a lot, but it’s getting a bit easier to concentrate.
If you beat yourself up about not finding time to practice asana, remember that you can still do yoga. There is a lot more to it than Sun Salutations and Down Dog. The physical practice is just one part of a series of “exercises” you can do to get yourself centered and calm. Try to incorporate some of the other limbs into your week and notice if they don’t make the asana practice that much more effective and useful. I am really curious to see how my postures have changed, once I get back on the mat.
Do you agree? Have you tried to work on the other limbs of yoga? What does practicing yoga mean to you? My ears (and comments page) are always open…©Brenda K. Plakans. All Rights Reserved