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December 17, 2013

Daily Self-Practice: Don’t Think, Just Do. ~ Vanessa Newby

It was the pursuit of inner peace that first led me to yoga. But as a former runner, I gravitated towards Power Yoga and Vinyasa Flow classes that got my heart pounding.

To be honest, it was the burn of a strong class that kept me going back for more—and the changes I saw in my body.

I enjoyed watching the growth of muscles that running and the odd gym session had never produced in me. I loved looking at the bodies of more experienced yogis just to admire their lean physique and toned muscles; that inspired me to continue far more than any ‘inner journey’ that my teachers would refer to.

Eventually I moved from Power Yoga into Ashtanga Yoga. The depth of the physical practice and the concentration it required started to feel more fulfilling. As time went by, I began attending Mysore style classes and eventually (when forced through circumstance I might add) into the wonderful world of self-practice.

I won’t go on about all the benefits of self-practice here. I want to talk about an epiphany I had one day on the mat.

Oddly enough, only the day before, I had been on the mat thinking that I hadn’t got any closer to enlightenment—whatever that was—and I wasn’t convinced that I ever would. I was content with the pleasure of the physical practice.

In order to commit to a self-practice every day, I had already learned to shut down my thinking, self.  If you start to question how you feel that day or how many positions you are going to do, more often than not, you will end up not practicing. It is so important to not think, just do.

There was another step to be mastered: acknowledging my feelings.

I was at the end of my practice the following day, congratulating myself on having ‘done’ when it suddenly hit me: the act of daily practice is so hard to commit to.

A wave of emotions flooded through me. I realized then that part of the discipline and endurance needed to practice the same sequence of moves each day comes from a genuine emotional acknowledgement that this is a hard thing to do. Especially, if you are like me, very Vata with the attention span of a fruit fly.

The exercise cycle for the average person is about six weeks. We can commit to a program for about that time, then feel the urge to alter our program or simply drop out. I have certainly noticed myself experiencing this in my yoga class attendance. Every six weeks, I would feel restless and unwilling to attend class.

I realize now that my problem was that it is simply not possible to talk yourself into any routine for longer than a certain period. Motivation will wax and wane. The speech you give yourself in order to keep going will eventually get old and bore you.

I realized that all my life I’d been trying to force positive emotions and deny negative ones when I was trying to stick to an exercise routine, instead of allowing myself to feel what I was feeling, acknowledge it and then move on by doing the exercise anyway.

Now, my mantra is to do my practice daily without thinking about whether or not to do it. When negative feelings come up, usually around doing the practice, I acknowledge them—and then go back to practicing.

This has had massive repercussions in my life.

Now when any kind of emotion floods me, happy or sad, I no longer brush it away before I can feel it. I make sure I acknowledge it first. The effect is miraculous. I feel calmer, more centered and authentic because I feel truly in touch with my real feelings.

All this time (and I am a ripe old age, believe me), I had been going through life blocking off many of my emotions. How far from my natural state had I become!

If life is for living, how can we say we have lived it without acknowledging our true feelings about anything?

Just to be clear, I am not talking about dwelling here. Dwelling on negative thoughts in particular and allowing them to dictate your behavior is a very different thing. The thing is, once you accept your feeling, it usually floats away and your instinct kicks in again. To keep practicing.

Acknowledging your feelings also engenders self-acceptance, because it helps you to be more honest with yourself. Feeling and doing instead of analyzing and thinking has made me genuinely feel I am living as opposed to existing.

I am starting to get back in touch with my true self and the natural world. And as someone who lives (and will probably die) at her laptop, this is no small thing.

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Editor: Michelle Margaret

Image: courtesy of author

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