We all have those moments where we resist the mat, perhaps every day? The discipline of daily practice is not an easy one but what it will give you is a map of how your mind resists. Then there are other times when all our body wants to do is rest. Kate Blake shares her recent experiences with mat resistance.
I’ve had a tricky few weeks with my health – a few minor crashes have left me with even less energy than usual so there have been no challenging asanas being held here. Simon, my husband has been away.
This makes daily life more difficult for me and also had a surprise impact on my yoga practice.
If you have read my previous posts you will know that since January when we joined MFML, Simon and I have been practising yoga every morning, and that mostly he follows the classes and I do my own thing joining in with the teacher when I can. Suddenly, with him away, I was doing our morning yoga practice on my own.
It was a bit like comfortably growling at the back of the choir for weeks and suddenly been asked to sing solo.
I started confidently, excited by the challenge of trying some new classes that were just for me and using the filters to select a class which I thought would be suitable for my abilities. But it wasn’t! And there was no hiding from it, as I couldn’t just do my own thing while Simon did it ‘properly’ beside me.
I’ll be honest with you I got upset and I got angry – a real case of mat rage.
I tried again with another class and another but it was no good. Yes, of course, had I kept my calm, I could have done one of the classes which I had already identified last month as great classes for my level. But the achiever in me had been determined to try something new, to succeed and to move on. And I was reacting with anything but calm.
But, as I fought the mat, I realised how important a lesson it was teaching me. I was being confronted by my limitations which I always find difficult.
I talked to myself more kindly. “Isn’t yoga all about learning about your body, its apparent limitations and its possibilities? Isn’t this true for everyone who practises? Maybe other – healthy – people also occasionally experience this feeling of fighting the mat. Maybe this is normal?”
I listened to the lesson and I listened to my body and I asked it what it needed. It needed kindness. It needed nourishing. It needed a break from pushing and to get its confidence back.
So I gave it Yoga Nidra and breathing.
Here are my top three go to classes for when your body just needs attention, nourishment and rest.
Kirsty Norton’s Yoga Nidra class ‘Embrace your Essence: Receive’ is the perfect way to nourish your body when you are feeling overwhelmed. She makes it feel both OK to need it, and wise to practise it. Her invitation to a time of “No shoulds, woulds and coulds” starts the letting go process for me.
The focus she gives to sensing the energy and “radiant vibration” makes this a nourishing practice for me than a simple body scan.
The Sankalpa she offers as a suggestion is the perfect antidote to an achieving mindset. I remember the first time I heard this it was a laugh out loud with surprise and relief moment for me to realise that my Sankalpa could be way of being rather than goal orientated!
Her light and gentle voice is perfect for this practice. Kindness itself!
I also love Graham Burns‘ Yoga Nidra class. His three ‘rules’ in his introduction instantly invoke a sense of relief and state of relaxation in me.
It allows my achiever part to sit back and then let go. A massive achievement!
I always like to get straight into Savasana at the start and re-listen to his introductory talk. With his mellow calming voice, it helps me into a state of relaxation and focus. This way I get the most out of the class as well as reminding me of my intentions. It’s a gentle practice which leaves me feeling better.
Finally Mimi Kuo-Deemer’s Qigong breathing is another class which has become part of my daily routine. Her five part breathing class ‘leading toward’ embryonic breath is my go to breathing routine day and night.
The ‘intentional’ breathing in and from particular parts of the body gives my mind a powerful hook than simply following my breath.
When she talks about the sun warming the water and the water cooling the sun, I am transported to the Lake District watching the sun burn the early morning mist off a glassy lake – bliss!
At each stage of the practice I find myself dropping one step further into a state of profound focus and relaxation and always finish feeling so much calmer and quieter. Although I use this practice a lot on my own, taking it back to the mat and following Mimi’s beautiful voice makes the practice even sweeter and more profound.
I am no yogi, only a very beginner, but it seems to me now that I started this post by saying there had been no challenging asanas here this month. But maybe there have?
Maybe sometimes, just getting on the mat is a challenge.
Certainly lying still and letting go of everything to focus on your breath can be a massive challenge!
So I’m going to feel ok about having no amazing new classes to tell you about this month. I went back to basics. But it was good and just what my body needed. Maybe I can take another lesson from this.
Maybe it’s not always important to be moving on, maybe it’s sometimes important just to allow yourself to stay where you are for the moment and be ok with it. Maybe that’s yoga too.