Inside-Out Yoga—When Asana Meets Awareness
January 2017 is all about loving your body at Love Your Body. So, we are thrilled that our friends at Tree House Yoga have agreed to do a series of blog posts for our series Happy Body! In this week's post, Rebekah Taylor tells us about how a holistic yoga practice—focused on mind, body and spirit—allows us to gain deeper insights of the who, what, where, and whys of our journey. See below for Rebekah’s full bio. As we uncover the ancient wisdom buried within our bodies, minds and souls we come face to face with truth—we are connected—our body as a blueprint allows us a glimpse of a much larger tapestry. Sitting at the loom of awareness we begin to ground ourselves in the present; we weave. With the subtlety of a single thread, consciousness begins to take root, tethering mindful effort to the ease of instinct—we bind ourselves to this universal whole so that it might transcend. ~~~ In 2008 I began practicing yoga in an effort to explore outside my typical workout regimen. After my first class with Dave Sims, at Cityoga, I was certain what I had done was not simply “exercise”. In one class, a class in which I had barely dipped my toe into the infinite pool of mindfulness, I could see that beyond this initial experience remained ever-deeper states of being—each one permitting a hidden insight into the self: body, mind and spirit. Through my daily practice I continued to uncover layers of understanding mentally, physically and spiritually. This “exercise” had become my ritual, a practice of coming home to myself. With an insatiable hunger to learn more, I built my asana practice from the inside out, honing in on the intricacies of my infrastructure in hopes to better understand my place in the world around me. So what does this mean? How does one weave awareness between the internal and external layers of self throughout a practice? To keep it simple and accessible to any and all levels of practitioners, let us consider centering—if we can tap into a deeper sense of awareness and physical sensation from a foundation of stillness there is no question that intertwining these techniques with a physical, fluid practice will only continue to uncover layers of understanding. Centering, whether in a class or at home practice, is that act of transitioning the self. We seek to purposefully and mindfully move the self from "I was doing this" to "I am here now." 1. In a comfortable cross-legged seat or lying on the back in corpse pose: begin by finding three cleansing breaths (inhale slowly and smoothly through the nose, release the jaw and allow the exhale to sigh out of the mouth). As you take these deep-cleansing breaths, scan and notice anything keeping you from simply being in this present moment, whether physical, mental or emotional. With each audible sigh attempt to release any ties binding you to something outside of here and now—this may mean physically readjusting the body or perhaps taking an extra long, or even audible, sigh to release mental and emotional tensions. By your final cleansing breath, find the body in a comfortable state of stillness, seal the lips and begin breathing in and out through the nose. 2. From that stillness, if they aren’t already, softly close the eyes and draw your awareness into the space around you. Notice the sounds in the room, feel the temperature and quality of the air. Gradually begin to drag that awareness from noticing the sensory output occurring in the space around you toward noticing the body’s interaction with said space. What parts of the body are connected to the floor? Are you using any supports (props, a chair, or wall)? As you draw awareness across the surface of your skin begin to allow the breath to move you from noticing external (stimuli in the room surrounding the body) to internal (stimuli within the body) sensation. 3. Start by noticing the rise and fall of the belly, the rise and fall of the chest. Feel the coolness of the air as it enters your nostrils and the warmth as it exits. Can you feel a sense of length or lightness on your inhale and a pull of gravity or rooted sensation on the exhale? Regardless of what you may or may not feel, continue to track the breath and begin to create a pattern of equanimity—establish equalization between inhale and exhale. As the breath begins to synchronize, use this rhythmic quality to dive back into the sensations of the body while maintaining the steady pulse of your breath. Imagine inhales lengthening the muscles, breathing space into any jammed, congested or tight areas of the body. Conversely, exhales draw everything back in towards the midline—muscles hug bones, bones pull firmly into skeletal alignment. All of the expansion achieved on the inhale is drawn back into the midline on the exhale. With each breath seek to expand this ebb and flow. Inhales finding evermore intricate sensations outward, while exhales harness closer and closer to the center of your center. In short, tune in, turn in, and tune out; knowing that each time you fall out of this rhythm—be it the mind being pulled out of the body, the body falling out of a particular asana, or the breath becoming syncopated due to the challenges of mind & body—simply find a deep inhale through the nose & release the jaw as a cleansing exhale sighs out of the mouth, soften the eyes, seal the lips and begin again. ~~~ Then there's that moment when your entire universe becomes breath & bones. You dive into your own little current of energy and swim, feeling the ebb and flow, traveling the twists and turns of your frame, sink into every corner; explore every tiny feature. And when all is said and done let go, let go knowing you'll come back. You'll explore again and you'll find something else, something new, maybe something the same; but let yourself rest so that you may return to your journey anew.
I began practicing yoga in 2008 in an effort to explore something outside of the typical workout regimen I had grown accustomed to. To my surprise, I quickly found myself falling in love with much more than the asana practice of yoga. No form of exercise or mediation had ever allowed me so much access into myself, as well as the world around me.
Through my daily practice I began to find myself continually growing stronger yet also vulnerable, meek yet confident and selfless – yet able to give self love and care. It was through the experience of these dichotomies (mentally, physically and emotionally) that I knew I had found a practice that felt like home. As my personal practice deepened I developed an insatiable hunger to learn more, which brought me to completing a yoga certification at Cityoga under Marsha Papas, Nicki Meyers and Dave Sims in 2014.
Yoga has allowed me to experience my journey on and off the mat as one filled with magic and beauty. It has given me nothing but gratitude for my practice and this world, and that is the journey I hope to share with those around me.