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Reminding Myself that Yoga is a Way to Become Friendlier to Our Bodies and Minds

This morning’s view from the yoga mat was a lovely reminder of seasons, cycles and other things that impact.

I regularly talk to yoga students, clients and so on about yoga not being about contorting ourselves into painful poses or looking skinny on Instagram.

I remind them (and myself) of David Emerson‘s wonderful definition of yoga as a way of becoming friendlier with our own bodies and minds.

He created Trauma Sensitive Yoga, working with the world renowned trauma specialist Bessel van der Kolk.

I was fortunate enough to interview him, before Overcoming Trauma Through Yoga was published, several years ago.

He talked about working with some clients who can only manage ten minutes of yoga and this being fine.

Rather than psyching ourselves out about not having the flexibility to to move more deeply into a pose or having the stamina or strength to hold it for as long as we might light, we benefit by applying ahimsa.

This is the yogic practice of non-violence towards ourselves and others.

Instead, we might choose to talk kindly to ourselves, honouring what we CAN do instead of fixating on what isn’t possible.

I’ve both loved and struggled with this since I started practicing yoga for pain relief in 2001.

Every month, I’d notice the improvements regular practice was making to my body and mind and then, boom.

Pain.

Often on the floor unable to stand UP let along practice yoga.

Frustration at my inability to do more of what helped and, each time, backsliding a little on the improvements I’d made.

Over the decades, I’ve become far more accepting.

There’s no point arguing with reality on some things.

My body screamed for my attention in my 20s and over the decades, I’ve become a far better translator and listener so it generally whispers when I veer of course now.

Even so, yesterday was a reality check.

Between illness, travel and a cold, for weeks, my morning yoga practice had been a very basis one, maybe two poses rather than the usual mix of that and several ‘proper’ practices.

Yesterday, I longed to do a ‘proper practice’. I chose one of the sequences I teach.

Other days, it might be a mixture but I consider a ‘proper practice’ one that leaves me feeling stretched, twisted, expansive and relaxed as well as energised and ready for the day ahead.

A big somatic smile from top to toe which always makes me wonder WHY I’d ever resist doing what feels so good.

Yesterday, after such a long break, I very quickly realised that in this short time, my body needed a much gentler approach. I only did a couple of Sun Salutations, I held each pose for less time and went far less into some which used to be effortless.

Because I’ve been through it enough times over the decades, I was able to almost immediately reframe that inner critical thought and congratulate myself on having learned to be kind(er) to myself.

When I got on the mat this morning, my expectations were more realistic and I could feel the improvement since yesterday while also continuing to be extremely gentle with myself.

In spite of this, I also noticed some improvements.

Better flexibility and balance in a couple of the poses feels like a direct result of abandoning my former default strategy (of knocking myself off balance endlessly with the endless critical inner monologue of my entire childhood and young (and middle) adulthood).

It’s less about age (I’m 44) and more about practice.

Am sharing this because, as I mention in the book, am always so aware with yoga that for all the everyone looking so serene on the outside, there can be a lot of angst going on internally.

Getting on the mat each day and witnessing (with compassion and curiosity) howEVER we’re feeling can be transformative.

What’s your home yoga practice like?

When you notice yourself speaking harshly to yourself, might you be able to remind yourself to aim more for ahimsa?

Not beat yourself up for lapsing into critical or even violent self talk but congratulating yourself for noticing and doing what feels good for your body and mind?

If you don’t yet (or still) HAVE a home practice, what would feel like something you’d look forward to each day?

How might you make your yoga and meditation more indulgence and less chore?

If you’d like my support, get in touch.

You can also be your own self care coach and even yoga therapist using whichever resources throughout the site appeal.

With love,

Eve Menezes Cunningham self care coach therapist supervisor

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