I Love Yoga!
There, I have said it, I love it, it is time and space and stretching and strength all for me. I am allowed to be in the inherent here and now through my breath, to feel the stretch of my muscles when I am in Uttanasana (or standing forward bend for those who are thinking huh?!?), to find my balance when I am in Tadasana (tree pose). Each action, each conscious breath, each taught muscle brings me home to myself and to my peace, to my calm.
In my developing yoga practice I have come to consider what yoga means when it comes to disability.
So firstly, here are some experts thoughts on yoga . . . (cause really . . . I ain't no expert!! Not yet anyway!)
(image via pinterest)
"Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self"
- The Bhagavad Gita
'Yoga is a powerful vehicle for change. As you build strength, you start to believe in your own potential.'
- Tiffany Cruikshank
'The very heart of Yoga practice is abhyasa - steady effort in the direction you want to go.'
- Sally kempton
'Yoga is not about touching your toes. It's about unlocking your ideas about what you want, where you think you can go, and what you will achieve when you get there.'
- Cyndi Lee
"To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don't need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.'
- Thich Nhat Hanh
(Okay, not a quote directly linked to Yoga, but its essence sits with the idea that in yoga class there is no judgement, you are in a pure space where you can accept yourself as you and that that is a beautiful thing.)
Yoga is a journey, a physical and spiritual journey inside, into your heart. Yoga is not a competition where you are trying to out-pose the person next to you, or pushing yourself to be the first person to layer through to Vrschikasana (don't know what that is? Google!). Yoga is about exploring your space, your limits, with a gentle and open heart. It's about trying things out, modifying, getting bad-ass creative with your body and mind, finding that stretch, that open-mind. Through yoga, you come to realise that we are who we are and in that moment we are free of the past and the future, that we are truly in the present.
So, how does this seemingly intense physicality and spiritual mojo link in with disability? How can people with various disabilities DO yoga?
(image via pinterest - please go check this link out, this yoga chick is awesomely rad!!)
Both Yoga and disability can be regarded the same - difficult, hard, and stuck within the paradigms of peoples perceptions. However, as discovered above, yoga is all expansive, flow-able, open, wide, like a bright blue sky on a clear Autumn morning. What if I were to say disability is the same? And when you combine disability and yoga together, sometimes the most creative moments can arise.
Disability is so varied, so open to all, it is not reduced to the other as many would think - we are all affected in some ways. In this respect, however, disability can be the ultimate human experience in creativity. Think about it - the marvelous adaptions, adjustments, ideas, and thoughts emerge into world through the experience of disability. Just the same as yoga, right?
My experience of yoga, with my disability, has been exactly that, working with what I have and seeing what I can do, gently pressing the limits of body, mind, and space. My disability is not a barrier, but a creative force with which to approach and consider each pose, each breath, each moment. Nothing is impossible, with the right support, the right thought, the right attitude - and this can really be said about life for all of us.
No excuse exists, no denial, no doubt.
we can all learn to accept and grow with what life has given us.
(image via pinterest)
I haven't had an epiphany for awhile (a few weeks at least!! LOL). However, the practice of yoga, I have noticed, is helping me notice my thoughts and really pay attention to what they are saying, allowing me time to let go of the "rot" and really listen to the 'gems.' AND these 'gems' are proving to be quite revelatory, or epiphany like.
On of these revelations was about the thoughts that create anxiety/stress/worry, and how these thoughts truly stop you from expanding into life, living the life of your dreams, from really being YOU! I also saw where these thoughts are coming from - they are coming from the past and the future (not literally, of course!!).
When you look at your life outside of the present (you know, this moment right now, this moment as I am typing or you are reading this post), your thoughts turn either to the past or to the future. What do you see in that past? What do you see in the future?
Negative crap? Long held issues and disaster movie scenarios? Anger? Sadness? Frustration?
about things that have happened and you can't change or things that may or may not happen.
This, quite obviously, is not a path to happiness, acceptance, and gratitude.
Being in the present? Inhaling Prana? (Prana = life force or breath) Going inside to see what's going on . . . how you feel in that moment, what you are thinking, seeing, tasting, hearing? Noticing and accepting change? (because frankly change is the only thing you can be sure of). Exhaling that which is mad, bad, and sad?
(image via pinterest)
This was my epiphany the other day - an epiphany I have had a few times in life, but one, it seems, I have to have over and over again . . . hopefully this time it will stick. Our stress and worry is all a construct of the mind - what causes us stress are moments from the past and thinking about the future in negative terms. Our minds create stories that are designed to leave us in a heightened state of awareness, that leaves our bodies on alert to potential danger, that drags our adrenal glands through the wringer (adrenals - controller of all icky stress hormones).
But how to release ourselves from this self perpetuating stress? One thing yoga has been teaching me is that our bodies and minds are as they are, no fiction or fakery about it! Well, what if we approached our thoughts with this idea of our thoughts being fiction; that we should step back and look at the fact before buying into the tragic disaster our minds are telling us has happened or is going to happen?
when we step back and allow our minds to take account of the here and now, we can see that the stories we have told ourselves, especially about the future, are in all likely hood a good trick from the brain trying to control the hype that is reality - when in actual fact, reality cannot be controlled.
So, how I am trying to combat the storyteller that is residing in my head? I am practicing and practicing and practicing focusing on the moment, being present, living in the here and now. Of course its not an easy, quick fix, the process of awareness, breathing, meditation, and yoga is an ongoing process - hence why it is called a practice and not a goal (or solid concrete ball of unchangeable limits). When I find my mind wandering to the past or the future in a non-nostalgic/optimism kind of way I gently remind myself that this is the storyteller that is trying to make drama and I bring my thoughts softly back to my breath, bring my awareness back to what I am going in that moment - I take note of how my body is feeling, what I am smelling, hearing, and seeing. You see, we cannot change the past, we cannot control the future, and we certainly can't control other people, but we can control how we respond to the current moment and if we respond to the current moment with a positive light that can only step us into the next moment and the next moment with a peaceful calm and a smile on our faces.
IMAGINE NOW, when you let go of your fears, your worries, and your stress, HOW MUCH MORE OPEN LIFE IS TO YOU NOW - THERE ARE NO LIMITS, JUST YOU IN THE MOMENT!
Well, not really a walk of terrors and fear, but definitely a walk of darkness, slight panic, and overcoming of physical pain!!
(image via pinterest)
Where, why, how, and with who? I hear you ask.
Well, the where was Swinsty Reservoir, a beautiful, well, reservoir just north of Leeds, that has a beautiful water edge walk meandering through forest, undergrowth, and beasties (beasties being ducks, swans, and midges). I did the walk last night, quite literally, last night. My friends and I arrived just as the setting sun hit the tops of the distant hills, bathing the neighbouring reservoir, Fewston, is watercolours of golden yellows, mellow oranges, and bruised blues. I was told it was an easy grade walk, and it was, in terms of the walk as a walk it is decadent for those of us with some mobility issues.
Firstly, you follow the road down to the bridge that separates Swinsty and Fewston, cross the bridge, and walk a little further to the entrance of the Swinsty. The path then meanders as a gentle slope (though I did wish I had my hiking stick) down to the water, then turning left to follow the waters edge. On this first part of the walk the path gently undulates under foot, rising naturally with the landscape to then swoop down to water level again. Eventually you come out of the undulates onto the flat path that becomes the norm for the rest of the walk. At this point you hit Swinsty's second car park, before leaving the reservoir to take to the road again - to cross another bridge, of course. At this point the sun had almost completely set and the darkness was starting to creep in . . . and my back was starting to hurt a little - yoga stretch time!!
Once the bridge was crossed we headed back into the reservoir, back onto the gravel path, but there were no more gentle slopes or rises, the path generally remained flat, except for the occasional "footpath pothole." Darkness was creeping in, quicker and quicker, I could just make out my friend Jess in the distance, all pale limbed and ghost-like faced, her dark clothes obscured in shadow. At this point, I will admit, I let a little panic set in, my lower back was starting to hurt quite significantly, we were off road, and it was almost nighttime - perhaps not the ideal situation . . . We finally came to another, private road, where about three houses were set back, from, their lights like blazing beacons through the trees. At this point, I was tossing up whether to turn back, to go to the other car park and let Gem and Jess continue onto the other car park for the car. I decided, turned to head back to the car park we had recently passed by myself, and then all of Gem's talk of terrors overtook me and fear set in. Quickly, I turned back to the way my friends were walking and yelled to them, "I can't, I can't do it, I need to keep on going with you guys.' So I did.
There was another bridge, just past the last house on the private road. The bridge, essentially, was the reservoir wall, holding back the water from flooding the deep valley on the other side. This deep valley, in the eerie twilight, was covered in a carpet of thick mist, as I watched, it seemed to be flowing back into itself, weaving, drawing, melding, into the landscape. We hit the other side of this third bridge, and I felt relief as I knew we were on the home stretch. Home stretch it may have been, but by this point it was almost pitch black, the only miniscule amount of light coming from the deepening sky, peering through the tree tops. The path was heavily potted, and I almost stumbled a few times; I had to ask Jess for her phone, to use the light to light the way. At this point the path was set back a little further from the water, this undergrowth and tall wave-y trees enclosed us, the only salvation being the gravel path that cut through the blackness like white chalk.
We made it. I made it. Back to the car park. Back to the car.
The stars were out.
(image via pinterest)
Now are you asking why did I do this? And how?
Well, to begin with, I wanted the challenge of a walk and walk length that I had never done before. I didn't intend to do it in the dark, but we were late to the reservoir and it was thought that we would have enough time to get all the way around before complete darkness. During the walk I had to make many decisions and deal with a myriad of emotional responses to the situation that I was in. A situation that was both calming and difficult. I learnt a little more about myself on the walk, I learnt to become even more self aware then I was, I could take a step back and just see, just observe. I tried to embrace the yogic principal of observing the breath and focusing on the breath, feeling the breath. It was a challenge, one of many on that walk.
I did this walk with the intent to start and complete it. I almost gave up part way through - but being already half way through, fear and logic dictated that I keep on going. The how I got through it is with peeps who encourage me along the way . . . with tacky rewordings of ColdPlay songs . . . it was funny!!
(here is me with these two awesome gals!!)
These peeps I speak of are pretty special peeps. Gem and Jess are two of my bestest buds and I love 'em both dearly, and this walk would not have happened without the crazy, insane, crazy of Gem thinking we could do the walk before the sun set (love you really Gem!!), and without Jess insisting that I come along for the walk . . . but really, it is these two (amongst others - looking at you Tara!) that have been reminding me lately to be more adventurous, to be more excited by the unknown, to open up to new experience with an open heart.
Because if we close ourselves off, for whatever reason, we miss out on the richness of life, the grand tapestry that is nature, in all it's abundant glory and beauty. I am also reminded that I have to listen to my body carefully, to really feel what is working and what is not, and to, again, embrace the yogic philosophy of being gentle and feeling 'space,' to be kind to yourself and mostly be at one with the present, with the moment,