Here we are at the end of another week, finishing our Yoga theme of Y.O.G.A ( see the last Blog!). The BIG question today was, "Who are YOU?" Quite demanding to find the answer to that first thing on a Friday morning! So we simplified it to "How many 'hats' have you worn this week?"
My 'hats' were teacher, gardener, personal shopper, painter & decorator, cleaner, cook, driver and then more importantly; Wife, Mum, Sister, Friend, Neighbour! There were many other hats that I didn't need to wear this week, which are always ready in my wardrobe to pop on and some that will always rest on my head whatever happens, like Daughter, Granddaughter...
All of us have different hats; some easy to wear, some an awkward fit, some playful, some heavy and challenging to keep them on. How many have you worn this week? These hats are perhaps what you identify with as your roles. They are also how the World sees You, positions in life that you take on willingly or not sometimes. They are reflections in the eyes of those looking at you...
It can become quite hard to see through this facade. This mantle that we wear each day can be difficult to take off when we are alone and there is no mirror to define us.
'A' in Y.O.G.A is 'Awareness of Self', a principle of our practice. This doesn't mean we need to 'navel gaze' necessarily to find this awareness. Today we firstly simply focussed on our bodies, our outer shell. Not just our skin and what others see from the exterior, but muscles, joints, tissues and everything encompassed within the shell, which physically only You can experience. No one else can 'feel' your foot connected to the floor as you balance on one leg. No one else can 'move your heart towards your thumbs' in Anjali Mudra, as you use the hands, pressing their palms together in Prayer position to connect right and left sides of you. No one else can know exactly where your right hand is, raised above your head with eyes closed. This is Proprioception, awareness of the position and movement of the body. The point here is to become aware now of You witnessing these, distinguishing this Body from the Inner Self.
Another way we worked on this today was using our Breath. We used Ujjayi breath, the sound of which can be so soft that only You can feel and hear it. No special Yoga training is needed though, 'normal' breathing works just as well! Listening to our inhales, watching our exhales, travelling into the Body with the Breath and following its path through using our internal proprioception is a great tool to draw inwards, Yogi or not!
Closing our eyes whilst doing both practices brings a curtain down on the world we live in externally. This can be powerful enough for some without too much more contemplation initially. This practice should be taken at your own pace and you only have to open your eyes to leave it remember. However if you can stay with it, you hopefully begin to experience a sense of your individuality. Sometimes, we close our eyes naturally to withdraw from outside experiences, finding this secret space within to shelter and regroup. Without any deliberate searching, you already know that this is where You are safe. It's good to know that space is always there, isn't it ?
In calmer moments and when we choose to go inwards, like here in our Yoga practice, we can take the time to look around this space and begin to connect with Self, at first physically through embodiment, then by emotionally by connecting to our Breath to slow ourselves down and calm our thoughts, those chattering monkeys! Finally in the stillness, with the world outside 'turned off' for a while you begin to notice You....
"People travel to wonder....
at the height of the mountains,
at the huge waves of the seas,
at the long course of the rivers,
at the vast compass of the ocean,
at the circular motion of the stars...
and yet, they pass by themselves
- SAINT AUGUSTINE.
Give your Self 5 minutes today (and everyday a little more) by sitting down, closing your eyes, using proprioception of your Body, following your Breath and taking off all those hats!