It's all about the journey
Most of us know Yoga to be a journey towards increased awareness and acceptance of the way things are. Nevertheless, letting go of our future-focused, goal-oriented mindset is a long journey, where we frequently find ourselves, like a mountaineer on a slope of loose rocks, taking two steps forward only to slide back some. Finding a place of stillness and full awareness at least in some yoga poses some of the time is a big step in the right direction.
However, when the poses themselves become mini-destinations along your path, you have reached an impasse on your journey that requires a new approach. You must have surely realised that there are thousands of yoga poses, it’s just that most of them don’t have a name yet. You need to move away from the mindset of seeing your practice as a series of poses to perfect. Instead, focus on maintaining your awareness throughout your practice, making the moments of transition - getting into the pose, being there, coming out - count just as much as the moments in which you come into a particularly challenging pose. Additionally, start focusing on the spaces between the poses, the transitions.
In addition to doing wonders for your awareness, focusing on the transitions, especially the transitions out of poses will also reduce your chance of injury. The easiest time to lose awareness is while coming out of a challenging pose, as you breathe a sigh of relief and your mind races ahead to being able to relax in an easier pose. This is one of the most common moments for people to get injured - not while in the difficult pose, where the difficulty itself keeps your mind in sharp focus, but when you think it’s over and your puppy mind dashes off into the future, leaving your body (…your temple) in the lurch.
Give this a go now. Get up off your chair and do the first few movements of sun salutations a couple of times, inhaling your arms up, exhaling into a forward bend, inhaling halfway up, exhaling back down, inhaling the arms back up, and exhaling back to Mountain Pose. Do it right here, without a mat, in your digital-surfing clothes.
Begin by observing your breath, noticing how the breath moves your body, how the inhale encourages your arms to float up, how the exhale invites you quite naturally into a slight forward bend.
Transition the whole series into one continuous movement, instead of a sequence of separate poses, separated by indifference or by daydreaming.
Make each and every moment count, especially if you are ‘just’ transitioning. Slow each movement down to take as long as the corresponding breath, and link each movement as seamlessly to the next as you link each inhale to the following exhale. Make each movement, each moment, deliberate and delicious, and begin to notice how this shift towards the journey, and away from your goals, quiets the mind and dramatically increases your sense of wellbeing and joy.
Shanti Gowans is the globally recognised author and founder of Shanti Yoga™, Meditation and Ayurveda for the self, family and community.
Shantiji has brought the concepts and practices of a healthy body and a still mind to thousands of Australians through her Yoga and Meditation programs on national television... Read more about Shantiji's biography
Travel with Shanti & Peter Gowans this November for a trip of a lifetime.