Hardly a yoga class goes by…
…when I’m not asked to demonstrate a yoga pose or two from the particular sequence I’m teaching. Obviously, I’m thrilled to answer questions: that means (a) students have actually come to my class and (b) they’re interested in the class material and not falling asleep on their mats. However, I’ve started to notice the emphasis students place on the yoga poses above all else: above breath, above being in the moment and even above movement itself. Yoga is different things to different people, but I think we can all agree that, on some level, it is about calming the mind and turning inward to focus on the body.
As a practitioner of vinyasa yoga, I like to plan my class in a series of asana, or yoga pose, sequences to make it easy to link one breath to one movement. The outcome is a graceful flow from one pose to the next, with each pose linked by a transitional movement. Despite the calm that transitions and sequences should bring, many students focus on the pose, or, rather, what they want to look like in the pose, that they forget all about the beauty, peace and sanctity that can be found in the transition.
Years before I started practicing yoga, I developed a nasty habit of either living in the past or in the future. I find myself looking backward at all the things I’ve done or scrutinizing even the tiniest mistakes I’ve made, playing “What If” or “If Only”. If I’m not doing that, I’m usually in FutureLand, planning out contingencies for every possible situation in which I might find myself. I’ve especially come to live this way in the past two years since I graduated college. This time in my life is one of huge transition: college to adult life, east coast to western living, being single to being in a committed relationship. These two years have also symbolized the fact that I hadn’t gotten any scholarships to graduate school and therefore had to commit to working before I could pursue advanced study. I’ve spent most of my days ruminating over past decisions I could have made that would have landed me a scholarship opportunity, or planning out my future once away from the cubicle. Instead of listening to what I need in the moment during this transitional phase in my life, I have blithely disregarded any signals my mind and body send me and choose to beat myself up over the past or anticipated future instead.
If you push yourself into the past or the future too much, your body will send you a signal that brings you crashing right back to the present. My signal came in the form of a massive panic attack while I was planning some far-fetched future adventure. For hours, I couldn’t stop crying and couldn’t quite figure out why. Finally, instead of blaming the late nights I’d been keeping and the pressure to pay my bills, I thought, “What do I need right now, in this moment?” Once I started thinking about myself in the present, it didn’t take very long for me to realize that while I was angrily ruminating on the past and planning the future, I’d changed. What I wanted—what I needed—had really changed and I hadn’t even realized it because I was too busy living in another time and another life.
In yoga, we focus so much on the last pose or the upcoming pose that we often forget to enjoy the grace and calm of the moment and the transition. Instead of focusing on the past or the future in your practice, open yourself up to the movement, the breath and the messages you can get while in transition—you might just get a message or two that you’ve been looking for.
Known as the girl who could talk herself out of a paper bag, Khaleelah Jones has always loved sharing her voice with others. Naturally, she became a freelance writer, social media consultant and yoga teacher to help others communicate in the most engaging, honest and compelling way possible. Contact her at [email protected] and check out her work at http://khaleelahjonesfreelanceandconsulting.yolasite.com/