(Featured image: https://lunabuerger.com/).
Do you ever wonder why yoga has been getting so much attention in the Western world? The simple answer is – we forgot how to stop. We hopped on a train to the “bright, developed and high-tech future” where everything we need is just within the reach while we are paying for it by living in endless stress and anxiety.
Our brains are overstimulated to keep this “wealth factory” going, however, just as any computer that works too hard, even our brain can eventually overheat and break down. If such thing happens to a computer, we clean it, dust it off, check if the fan is working and assure there is a good airflow. But when this happens to our mind, more often than not we keep it working until it throws out the last desperate sparks of effort.
Yoga is here to teach us how to stop, unplug, relax and let go. In the world where our mind just never stops operating, taking a few minutes a day to practice yoga and meditate became as essential as taking a good night full of sleep.
Yet despite all its benefits, many of us still struggle to turn yoga into a daily routine. We all know the pain – we buy our yoga pants, subscribe to the yoga classes, join the 30-day Instagram yoga challenge and march every morning to the local yoga studio only to one day find out that we are too tired to carry on.
We simply stop. Why?
It is because we made yoga yet another task on our already busy to-do list. And keeping up with all those to-do lists is always hard.
Yoga in its nature is spontaneous, natural, flowing and unrestricted. If you let it into your life slowly and effortlessly, with one little change at a time, it will soon become as integral part of your day as having a cup of coffee in the morning.
And you wouldn’t give up your morning cup of coffee no matter how busy you are, would you? 😉
Principle One – Be present
How much easier can the first principle get? It literally says – just be. Right here, right now. Not in the past and not in the future.
I know, you heard this million times but honestly – what is the first thing on your mind when you wake up in the morning?
The day hasn’t even started and our brain is at full speed, pre-living every single moment of the day, getting ready for possible and impossible scenarios that are automatically linked to anxiety, adrenaline and worry.
This can be avoided if after the wake up, we take one minute to open our eyes slowly. We observe the room. Observe the patterns of the sunshine on our wall, the way the light is travelling across the furniture, across the ceiling. We set a daily ritual to have 30 quiet minutes for a coffee and breakfast. We focus on the smell of it, the taste on our tongue. If we have kids, we can wake up a bit earlier. We don’t rush. We don’t turn on the TV. We gift ourselves a piece of silence before the madness of the day begins.
Principle Two – Do breathe
Observing the present moment is a great way to stop our mind from wandering. As my yoga teachers say: “Our mind is a monkey, it constantly wants to run around.” It has too much energy and as a result, it does things that are damaging itself – like a hyperactive child that falls on its face because it is running too much.
If we catch our mind creating scenarios that lead to fear and worries, we need to push the yoga button and shut it down.
You ask – How do we shut down our mind?
Well, we sit down. Straighten our spine and close our eyes. Focus on the darkness that overlapped our eyes. Take a deep breath. Observe how it enters our nose, goes down to our lungs, visualize it delivering oxygen to every part of our body, head to toes. And as we inhale – we let in all the light and freshness and as we exhale – we let the worry slip away.
By practicing conscious breathing we secure good distribution and circulation of the oxygen in our body which in effect leads to calmer mind, better digestion, cell regeneration and improved immunity. And it only takes a few deep breaths a day!
Principle Three – Less is more
We all remember the time in our childhood when we received a long-desired toy. We were excited beyond this world! Or when we moved into our new place, sat down in our new car. It was a great feeling, wasn’t it?
Of course it was. The reason for it is called dopamine – the feel-good hormone in our body that rewards us when we do “positive activities” desirable for the survival like eating or having sex, and unfortunately, according to our brain, getting new and nice stuff is one of them.
Now there isn’t a single bad thing about allowing ourselves some pleasure. The problem with dopamine, however, is that it is addictive. When we get it, we feel good, we want more and before we know it, we are surrounded with so much clutter that we don’t even need, don’t care about, and that doesn’t even make us happy. Now where all that dopamine has gone, huh?
Living simply is the first step to re-inventing our joy from little things and not even mentioning the immeasurable value it has for our environment.
At my home in Prague, I had literally everything I could ever think of. Drinking a cup of coffee, smelling fresh flowers in my room or enjoying the sun shining through my window became a routine. When I came to India, I was stripped of literally everything. It shocked me how simply people lived there. “You shall only get what you truly need” could be the motto of my stay, and and soon I got used to living in a small, simple room with daily routine of waking up, practicing yoga, eating simple meals and going to sleep early. For the time being, knowing that it was all I needed and all I could wish for was incredibly liberating.
The less I had, the more I appreciated the little I had.
My main point in this article is that in order to benefit from yoga, you don’t need to make a trip to Himalayas, nor do you need to stick to a strict yoga routine or go to a studio every single day.
Sometimes all it takes is one deep breath at a time :).