(And How it Can Help You Too)
I'm at that stage in my life where I don't want to spend time on anything that feels like I'm wasting time. A constant thought at the back of my mind is "if I were on my deathbed today, what would I regret not having done?" It doesn't mean I'm rushing around like a mad fool trying to cram a zillion things into my day. On the contrary, it feels more as if I'm trying to slow everything down, to really practise savouring every minute of every day.
Which is why I love practising yoga, and making it a big part of my life. Yes, I teach it, but I also practise it. Most days, I try to step on my mat for at least 20 minutes or more. A full yoga practise involves moving and breathing. And doing it while trying to focus awareness on sensations, thoughts and all the little things that constantly draw our attention away from what is happening right here, right now.
Yoga, at its best, is a delicious mindfulness practise that helps us to check in with ourselves and ask really interesting questions, such as "What's happening with me right now? What am I feeling in my body? What thoughts am I thinking? Is what I'm thinking true, or is it a habit that I've gotten into? If I'm feeling pain, what are those sensations really like? Are there thoughts that I always think when I'm in pain?"
This might seem self-centered, and a waste of time when there are other more important things to look after. In my experience, it's anything but. Just as we honour others when we give them our undivided attention, so we honour ourselves when we do the same. And the healing effects are tremendous. I have more energy and less pain than I did 15 years ago. I get sick less often. By taking care of myself, even for only a few minutes a day, I have way more energy to help care for others. Mindfulness practices have been shown to help reduce anxiety, depression, persistent pain, blood pressure, increase stress tolerance and boost immunity. There are over 75 benefits from meditation alone. The benefits accrue over time, and a daily short practice is far more effective than a longer practice once a week.
From talking to my students, I know that a home yoga practice, even with the best of intentions, can be hard to start, much less maintain. I've found it really helpful to set a simple intention. "I will step on my mat today." When you do your best to honour that commitment, your yoga practice flows from there. Maybe you do one pose. Maybe two. Maybe you practise relaxing in Savasana, simply lying comfortably while bringing your attention to your breath. Bit by bit, you will become enamoured of this subtle yet powerful practice, as your mind becomes calmer, your body more relaxed, and you have more energy to face the many challenges of daily life.
If you're ready to explore a regular yoga practice, I'm here to help. I would love to help you discover the benefits of a personal practice. We'll look at your personal needs and how much time you think you can devote to a practice. You'll take away a simple home practice that will work for you. Simply reply to this email and let's connect.
And if you know anyone who would enjoy starting a personal yoga practice, or who suffers from persistent pain, please introduce us. There are just too many people suffering from pain that doesn't go away (about one in every four people, a statistic that I find both frightening and appalling). In my experience, and those of my clients, yoga and mindfulness practices help, and can make such a huge difference in quality of life. So this year, I've promised myself to reach out to more people in an effort to get the word out. Please join me if you can.
Donna offers a holistic perspective on the relationship and healing of physical and emotional pain.