Yoga Every Day

It’s been a predictable Spring in Montana in that we’ve literally had a little of everything in the air! Sunshine, snow, flurries, rain, solid downpours, wind and then, more sunshine. The constant fluctuation in our mountain weather keeps us on our toes! Clearly though, the days are getting longer and brighter, and it’s exciting to feel that the icy/frigid days of winter are on their way out, making way for rambling hikes amongst hills that will soon be bursting with wildflowers (Though as seasoned Montanans we know better than to start planting our gardens just yet, right?). At IHY, we celebrated the season of new beginnings with 108 Sun Salutations, for
the Vernal Equinox. We had a generous group of regular Sun Saluters, along with several courageous new adventurers who discovered that, while hamstrings do require some love in the days after, the 108 is entirely doable and inspirational! It makes you feel strong! I hope you’ll join us next time for our quarterly 108, during the Summer Solstice (June 24th, 10am-12:15ish); and if the rapid beginning of the year is any indication of the months to follow, the next 108 is right around the corner! (even though you absolutely have time to implement half a dozen or so Sun Salutes to your daily practice to make the task of manifesting 108 Sun Salutations ever more awesomer...)

I mention a daily practice as a segway into this blog post, because, that is what I want to talk about. A daily practice. Yoga, as something we do--not only when we move from Forward Fold to Standing Split, or from Warrior Two to Triangle, but even when we move from our mat into our regular lives.

Yoga when we do the dishes.

Yoga when taking out the garbage.

Yoga when we munch a carrot.

Yoga when we notice that the sunshine has been replaced by a snow shower. Again. every moment.

How do we do this? How do we take the tremendous peace and sense of well being that we gather during Asana, into the moments beyond the mat?

Well, it’s not really such a mystery. It’s not out of reach. It’s entirely doable.

It simply requires practice.

That’s why we come to our mats. To practice. As tempting as it can be to reduce yoga to what it can do for the body, there is so much more it has to offer, beyond that undeniable perk. Studies are springing forth right and left to sing the praises that yoga can offer in the areas of chronic pain, anxiety disorders, mood disorders like depression and as a significant player in supporting the effects of PTSD. Mental health professionals, Alternative health practitioners (Chiropractors, Naturopaths, Massage Therapists, Yoga Therapists, etc...) and allopathic
practitioners of medicine (Doctors, Psychiatrists, Physical Therapists, Osteopaths, NP’s, etc) are beginning to recommend a regular practice of Yoga to their clients because the pharmaceutical options for lifting mood have numerous unpleasant side effects and inadequate efficacy in too many cases to be ignored. Yoga addresses the internal as well as the external, and, frankly, it’s less expensive than prescriptions that are showing about as much efficacy as a placebo can boast, while offering a powerful boost to the effectiveness of evidence based behavioral therapy techniques. Time and time again, the direction to internal and external health is pointing toward yoga as an answer, both collaboratively and singularly. Not only will it shape and tone and increase balance and flexibility, but it teaches your mind to be still.​ It allows you to practice the stability of breath. It prepares you for the moments beyond the mat.

Moving through Asana, we practice for the big game of life. It’s no different that anyone practicing basketball. You shoot, and you shoot and you miss and you miss and you shoot again and again and again, and after awhile, you start to see that your accuracy is improving. The distance you can run is further. Your mark is sharper. Your endurance more fluid. It’s no different in yoga. It takes practice. Lots of it. Not only is the practice enhancing your endurance physically, but it is transforming the mind...the soul. The practice only requires that you make your way to the mat and find stability of breath in the pose. It’s beautifully simple and only needs to be done with regularity in order to be able to access it when the phone rings in perfect timing with life hitting the fan. Because, it does. It does for all of us.

As we reach for stability and peace within our breath when we press into pigeon or lift our hearts in our backbends, we are practicing finding breath in difficult moments (It really is difficult to find breath in backbend, isn’t it?) It isn’t beyond our grasp, but without the practice required, when presented with car troubles and children and families and demands on our time---like in those moments alongside Bob from Accounting...Good ol’ Bob, who is not very self aware, nor intending to irritate, but who is trying to quit smoking by instilling a new habit of smacking gum relentlessly--All. Day. Long.​ Well, that is one of those moments found in the Big Game we are training for, while allowing Camel to come into fruition. The Ultimate Big Game.

When we are on our mats we move into and through our Asana, this commitment to the space is where we press back into pigeon, and lift into our backbends, and melt toward the earth in our Forward Folds. We practice the task of mindful breath in the poses and we reach deep in order to challenge the self into finding breath in a more complex bind. We do the yogic task of Asana, so that when we roll up our mats, say “Namaste’”, and head out of the studio, we can actually handle the moments wherein we have to truly look in the mirror and really see ourselves from the inside out--Because that’s another place where stuff comes up. Emotions come up.
Doubts. Fears. It’s moments of dealing with others and of dealing with the face we hide from others. Because of the desire and absolute necessity to bring yoga off the mat, we practice on our mats-- and the more comfortable and confident we are in our body and mind, the easier this yoga is to take it into our lives. We take the tools we learn and practice on our mat, and we then test ourselves as stress and problems and demands work their way into our lives. We breathe, bringing ourselves back to center. We use the tools we learn on our mat--how to deal with the constant attention to breath and balance--we practice those skills, right here. But then we live our lives out there. Our lives are messy and busy and complicated in the best and worst ways--the very reality of them can pull us off center. Away from our breath. Away...from our

The thing is, It takes lots of yoga--But, it’s not beyond any of us to practice every day. When I step on my mat, my goal isn’t to get better at yoga as much as it is to be a better...human. A better father. I’m working toward being a better sibling and son. A better friend. A better teacher. I think of my time on the yoga mat as an athlete would at practice in order to manifest his or her best. To win the game, they shoot hoop after hoop, just trying to make a basket, they swim lap after lap, they leap and dodge and bolt and train. It’s only with practice that we get better. In the real game, it’s way more difficult to make a basket. There are other players coming at us. It’s no different from Yoga as it melds into Life. This is where we practice. This is where we learn how to get on top of the game. where we start.

So when that gum smacking in the cubicle next door begins, how do you bring yourself back to your yoga, without whipping your mat out in the office, launching into a headstand to regain composure? We close the eyes. We find our intentional breath. We center the self. When we can do that, it frees us up to access a sense of humor, or at least a willingness to breathe, and to get ahold of our focus toward acceptance about the challenges life presents as it asks you to find your yoga in adverse situations.

So, Thank you for sharing this practice with me and with all the dedicated teachers in your life. Remember, your child may be your teacher if you are directed to the breath when a sudden need (“Dad, I can’t find x,y,z...&rdquoWinking is placed in front of you just as you put your feet up. Bob from accounting can be your teacher as you practice not losing your composure as the smack, smack, smack pounds like a drum in your ears (because, remember, Bob is just doing his thing. He’s not chewing gum to annoy you It’s not about you. The only part that has anything to do with you is how you choose to respond.) In every moment, you may be presented with a teacher. That’s why... Yoga, in every moment. Practicing every day, that your yoga, your breath, can serve you, better.

In order to help facilitate extra opportunities to go deep, IHY is happy to welcome Sadie to our studio! Sadie is a local NP and a certified yogini who is excited to offer a soothing restorative yoga class starting in April, on Wednesday evenings, at 7:00 just after our regular 5:30 vinyasa flow. I hope you will take advantage of this enriching yoga opportunity where you are sure to enjoy melting further into the breath.