Most days I feel like I’m at the mercy of my to-do list. If a task is not written on one of the 19 digital post-it notes that sits on my desktop, then in all likelihood, it won’t get done. Let’s face it – most of the items that are on those post-it notes won’t get done in a day!
As a result, it’s easy to let my multi-tasking mind take over when I’m on my yoga mat. Lately I’ve been catching myself mental ticking through the alignment points in my poses the way I tick through my to-do list. It’s not the same as simply taking stock of my alignment while I’m in a pose. It’s got a different tenor altogether – there’s more judgment attached to it. I’ll give you an example. Recently, as I went into Triangle Pose, the inner dialogue went something like this, “OK, right foot out, left foot in. Yuck, my side waist is so tight today. And my neck! Always so tight. Will this never change? Tomorrow I need to do more neck stretches throughout the day at my desk. Note to self: More neck stretches!”
Do you see what I mean? Instead of simply observing what was arising in my body, I was unconsciously putting more things on a future to-do list! As a result, I wasn’t fully taking in what I was doing at the time. I was just creating more stuff to think about and accomplish. I was also fixating on fixing myself. As I did this, my inner critic ratcheted up a notch.
Then—hallelujah—I took in my teacher’s gentle instructions. I heard his reminder to scan my awareness all over my whole body. I listened to him as he told me to take my awareness to the places I might be ignoring – like my right big toe or the tips of my fingers. Instead of being seduced by the dramatic whines of my hips, by the tortured sighs of my side body, or by my stiff-as-a-board neck, I could let those go. I could just. Simply. Let them be. I didn’t have to fix them or change those parts of myself that weren’t quite living up to my expectations, that weren’t quite – WINNING.
Instead, I could focus on my whole self and the fact that I was taking this interesting and beautiful shape. I could hear the whines and the sighs of my body and just let them be. I could trust that by taking Triangle Pose and breathing and being with the people around me, the practice would do its work. It would give my body the stretch and the strength that I needed. I didn’t have to perform or split my attention between all of my perceived inadequacies. Doing so only made me lose my connection to my breath and to the feeling of being a whole, beautiful, alive person. This was really difficult to do and remains a difficult practice for me.
But when I did it, I was able to remember that even though today’s tight side waist was annoying, doing Triangle Pose meant that it might not turn into tomorrow’s back pain. I could still observe the sensations, but I could also accept them. And by accepting the parts of me that were less than perfect, I had attention and energy left over to enjoy and celebrate the parts of me that were doing just fine – or even more than fine! Because, let me tell you, I’ve got a really cute, fabulous right big toe. And it deserves my attention, too.
Here are my top 5 mind-soothers:
- Child’s Pose
- Downward Facing Dog Pose
- Bound Angle Pose (nice and loose, Yin style)
- Half Moon Pose
- Any seated side bend!
How do you invite your mind to rest in awareness while you practice? Do you have a pose that brings up your inner grumps? How about one that soothes your mind?