When I first started yoga, I felt clumsy, inadequate, and certain that I would never master anything but the simplest of poses.
But as I continued with yoga, I began to discover that there is a significant mind-body connection that served me not only during yoga class, but in my daily life.
Where previously I would react, now I can take a moment to consider before I act. I have a fiery personality and usually my reactions to life would be hair-trigger and often inflammatory.
Yoga helped me to temper that heat and my responses to unexpected events in life. The beauty of yoga is that there is a pose for every mood I’m experiencing, for where my body is on any given day considering the abuses of my youth on my knees and my back, and even more importantly, my mental presence. Some days I am eager for the challenges of the warrior poses, the triangle, and the intensity of King Pigeon.
Other days, I want to just melt into the mat during the restful Child’s pose, my forehead meeting the mat, eyes closed, listening both to my mind and my body. On those days, I might even find downward dog to be too much for my elbows, wrists, shoulders, and I will modify into puppy dog.
The whole idea behind yoga is to not only look for a way to fitness of the body, but fitness of the mind. We are not always ready to carry the burdens of life as fully one day to the next. So it is with yoga. Some days, you are eager for the feeling almost of aggression as you move through your flow practice.
But other days, you will find that your body and/or your mind needs something different. An astute yoga instructor will notice this immediately, and may even have further suggestions for modifications for you that day. If you can remember that yoga is an individual practice, not a competition, you can find what you need every single day you meet yourself at your mat.
I have a few poses that I tend to favor, and on days when I can’t get to a yoga class I try to do an abbreviated practice of the poses I most need on any given day.
I won’t give them to you because your needs are likely different from mine. What I want to encourage you to do is to find the poses that bring you the greatest release, the best connection between mind and body. It might be a single pose that you hold for five to fifteen minutes in the yin tradition. Or it might be an abbreviated flow of your favorite poses.
Whatever your favorite pose, use it as often as possible to maintain both physical and mental health.