While here in Mysore I’m doing two yoga classes a day. The morning practice is at least 2hrs of Mysore style Ashtanga. This is a strong practice that follows a set sequence that is very much the same day in, day out. It’s done independently with everyone in the room moving in time with their own breath. The only thing that changes each day is how I approach it.
In the afternoon I attend a flexibility and back bending class. This is 1hr 45mins and also follows a set sequence for a while; then individual postures are given. This is a class I felt really drawn to, it’s an area I know I have lots of potential for growth. In each class I’m taken to my physical limit, to that point of discomfort where you don’t know how much more you can take.
Every time I step onto the mat here I’m confronted with the same challenges, the poses where I feel seemingly stuck. There is no escaping these postures, they are there waiting for me each and every class but I have a choice – to truly work on them, or to avoid it just brushing over the surface.
I came here to work, to break though some of those physical and mental blocks so most days, unless I’m flat out exhausted, I do the work.
It’s the same things I face repeatedly – lack of confidence, doubt and trust.
What translates on the mat reflects in life #truth
As I began really contemplating this today I started to see the link to injuries and relationships – yes yoga links to pretty much everything if you think deeply enough on it.
I had lots of confidence in my wrists; I was fearless throwing my weight into them however I pleased… until I hurt them. Similarly, I was totally open to love, fearless, until I got hurt a couple of times…
Then after hurt comes fear, what if I get hurt again?
Through my practice I’ve come to see lots of irrational fear and protection over my wrist, things I’ve been avoiding in case I hurt it again. All this does is further solidify the fear, causing stagnation and a slowing of growth into full potential. Has this pattern of hurt followed by fear translated into my life off the mat…to relationships…even if only unconsciously? While it’s hard to admit, I think the answer would have to be a yes.
So how to we overcome this?
My strategy has been to use my body as a vehicle and the yoga practice as a tool.
Rather than going for practices that I typically do at home, those that play to my strengths, I seek out practices that really challenge me. Each day here I put myself in a position where I have the opportunity to work on areas that I feel could be strengthened.
The arm balance transitions during the ashtanga practice teach me to again trust my wrists, to have faith that I won’t hurt them again, to adapt where required and to move mindfully. Handstands in the middle of a full room teach me to have confidence in my ability outside of my house (it’s silly but I have no trouble with this at home but really struggle when I step outside). The drop-backs (standing position to floor backbend) tackle fear for me in the most confronting way possible. For me there is nothing scarier than falling backwards in the hope that my hands find the ground and not my head!
As for the back-bending practice, well that whole practice is opening up totally new realms for me. It’s taking me places my body has never been, it’s causing lots of physical discomfort and pushing me into the space of vulnerability and openness constantly.
I’ll say it again…
What happens on the mat, translates into life.
If we repeat anything frequently enough, it becomes a new way of being.
Do I get bored doing pretty much the same practice every day?
Absolutely, but again this is something that I feel is needed in my life, I normally have so much freedom and choice. This practice is something that I commit to unconditionally for 2 months, it’s the challenge of showing up even when I don’t feel like it, when my body is aching/tired and the creative part of my yoga self feels like it’s dying.
More and more I come to see that it’s not at all about the postures, the real story and magic lies beneath the surface. It’s everything that’s taken place to make that expression of the pose possible.
I’m seeing that in many postures it’s not my body that is holding me back; it’s my mind.
As I break through these mental barriers the seemingly impossible postures just come, almost naturally.
Don’t get me wrong, physical limitations still play a hugely significant role and there are loads of postures where all the positive thinking in the world will not get me there. In this case though I continue moving in that direction completely content with non textbook looking yoga postures because I know that beneath that posture is a whole lot of work and more progress than will ever be seen by the observer.
Take this as an example; here is a picture of the physical progress of my Urdva Dhanurasana (wheel pose) over the last 3 years:
Initially what you may notice is that my feet and hands are slowly but surely getting closer together, my back is bending more. What these picture don’t convey is what’s taken place to get me to this point. The struggles, the tears, the ‘this pose is hell on a stick’ phase, the ‘avoidance’ phase, the changes to my overall posture, the change in my physical and non-physical openness, the change in my ability to surrender, to be vulnerable. As my body opens, my mind opens, for those of you who know me well you have probably also noticed this over the last 3 years.
Yoga is so much more than a physical practice; with a little dedication there is so much to be gained.
I encourage you to step onto your mat recognising that it is a training ground, a mirror for life, bring your awareness to the mat and see what comes up!
Many yoga traditions observe full and new moon as a rest day from physical practice. For a long time I had no idea why, then one day my curiosity got the best of me and I decided to look at it in some detail.
Interestingly humans contain 45 – 73 % water with babies having higher water content. Similarly around 71% of the earth is covered by water. During the full moon (sun and moon in opposition) and new moon (sun and moon in conjunction) the gravitational forces are combined resulting in a higher than normal gravitational force being applied to the earth, this gives greater extremes in the ocean tides.
Although many scientific studies suggest that the gravitational force only acts on open bodies of water, and not the closed system that is our body, many people still believe that the full moon does make us a little crazy.
A number of scientific studies have found links to the moon cycles and human/animal behaviour although there seems to be much debate as to whether it is a true scientific phenomenon or just a placebo affect.
Regardless here are some interesting findings from published studies:
The 29.5 day moon cycle is also in accord with the average human menstrual cycle. It's said that this is the best-known example of the way our bodies (over millions of years of evolution) have synchronised with the rhythms of the moon.
The yogis didn't base their moon day rest period on any current western science, as far as I understand it the practice was carried over by Pattabhi Jois (the founder of Ashtanga Yoga) who was a student and later a professor at the Sanskrit College in Mysore. At this college they did not teach students on the full moon and new moon days, it was believed that the children simply didn't learn well on these days, particularly new concepts. When Pattabhi Jois began teaching yoga he carried over this rest period which has since been adopted by many other teachers and yoga lineages.
Like all things it's completely subjective, the best way to draw a conclusion, look objectively at your own personal experiences and see if you have any correlations with the moon cycle.
In general it's said that during the full moon we can feel more energised, have more stamina – this can lead to injury. Our emotions are amplified, a little anger can escalate to a lot of anger and a little happiness can easily increase to extreme happiness. We can become more sensitive to details.
The full moon is a great time for manifesting and making progress toward our goals.
The new moon is said to bring a sense of calmness and it's a time where we can feel quite grounded and low on energy. The new moon with its darkness is like a blank canvas, a time that feels more void/empty, a great time for clearing house and setting intentions.
Through my own personal experience I have no doubt that certain phases of the moon have a tangible impact on me. I’m full of energy around the full moon. Looking back over the last 3 years, I’ve been injured twice around the full moon from simply overdoing it. This has been a great lesson for me, I now follow the moon cycle and either take full rest on the moon days or do a more gentle flow or yin class.
My sleep is also impacted by the full moon, the last full moon here in India was no exception. It was an extreme case with lots of restlessness and around 2 hours less sleep than normal, despite following my usual routine.
During the new moon I have a tendency to become more reflective and withdrawn. This is a time where I generally like to be alone and spend more time sitting, reading, reflecting, and journaling.
Are you curious as to whether the moon cycle plays a role in your life?
Why not add the moon cycle to your calendar/journal and take note how you feel on days of the full and new moon, you might be surprised to see some common themes. It' said that their energetic influence extends a few days before and after the moon.
If you use Google calendar there is a cool add on in 'Other Calendars' called 'Phases of the Moon' that you can overlay.
If you have any interesting revelations then please feel free to share.