Beginners come to yoga for relief from stress, physical issues or pain. If the practitioner is consistent in her practice – even just weekly – she observes that her posture begins to improve. If she does miss a class, she finds that she really felt its absence in her week. She discovers to her delight that the body and the postures are really just tools to teach her how to quiet the mind and to connect with her inner self. And that the key to achieving balance in her life is in accessing this center.
The student comes into class, and stands on her mat. The practice begins. The breath has new meaning. Possibly for the very first time ever, there is a new awareness of breath and of the breathing process. The brain cells begin to settle, and there is a meditative quality in practicing the poses. The intense focus on the body and the execution of the postures, or asanas, increase one’s concentration and attention span. All other unrelated thoughts are absent. Challenge and pleasure in movement is felt. The normal experience of an hour or two is altered: time dissipates. Then class is over – the fluctuations of the mind are stilled, the body is well stretched, muscles toned and joints lubricated, tensions are released. The student joyfully steps off her mat and into her world outside of the studio.
Chaos ensues. Traffic jams. Late for car-pool. Deadline at work looms. Return home. One child’s scraped knee, another battle between siblings. While on the phone asking her partner to pick up milk, the pot boils over, the baby spills the can of apple juice and someone is at the door. What happened to the tranquility of the yoga studio? How to remain calm in the present moment without the desire to flee? Where to find the inner point of stillness that the teacher referred to?
There are no easy answers, magic formulas or simple roadmaps to follow. However, committing to a consistent practice of yoga over time does teach you how to return to your center when needed. In class, as you quiet your thoughts, observe your breath and follow the instructions being given while in a pose you learn how to stay fully connected with yourself in the moment. As you learn to detach from external stimuli and distractions and to take your awareness inwards, you are drawn to your core. You begin to discover your own sense of stability, strength, balance and calm. Learning to stand firmly in the basic standing posture called “tadasana” or mountain pose, creates a sense of grounding from the feet. As the rooting in the feet occurs, the spine and spirit begin to ascend up. Eventually, regardless of what surrounds you, you will be able to maintain your poise, steadiness and focus. Then when you have stepped off the mat and into your life, you will be well equipped to tackle whatever challenge presents itself to you with equanimity and grace.