This graphic representation of co-operation versus conflict was given to me by a highly experienced teacher (Ruth) when I was training to be a yoga teacher. I filed it and it has taken me quite some time to look at it again – to notice it in the light of my attempt to practice with awareness..
I have practised yoga in a push/pull way. I have used belts to lengthen my hamstrings. I have tensed my shoulders in order to sit “correctly”. That preoccupation with structure may mean that we don’t listen to out nervous system; that we don’t notice how small adjustments to our habitual movement may help us to nurture ourselves – physically and emotionally.
In classes last week, some students began to notice some small but very useful sensations in their practice. These observations open up dialogue and that is a sign of an emotionally balanced environment. Someone noticed how to stop pushing up into dog pose. Someone noticed that she could use rib breathing to help her feel more comfortable in plank. Another student explored a sense of ease in breathing practice rather than forcing herself to “get it right”.
Ruth, also gave me a handout to keep. It is entitled “Emotional Balance” and lists simple techniques to reduce stress. You may find them interesting:
- Anger – a natural response is to clench your fists. Pick up a small object such as a stone and squeeze it as hard as you can in the palm of your hand. Then, open your hand as if to let it go. Rock the object in your hand as if making peace with it.
- Sadness – with sadness comes lethargy. Try to walk and focus on the things you pass; it doesn’t matter where you go or how often you have passed that way. With each step and each response you are beginning to work out your feelings
- Jealousy – is often the product of our fear of loss. Our responses are similar to those of fear. The instinct may be to fight but instead of giving into fury, gently run the fingers of one hand over the top of the other. As you do, it is as if you are stroking a hand in comfort. Each stroke helps to soothe away heightened emotion.
Such mini exercises may not be suitable or even come close to helping with the deep emotions that many feel. Our practice of small repetitive movements may be more useful. However, stressed individuals may feel more “supported” through strong actions or very physically demanding activities rather than such passive, gentle exercises. Re-reading this does make me pause (once again) to consider the challenges of practising mindful awareness, which I have sketched in the past 2 posts.
We search for balance. This term’s theme is balance and breathing (a tall order!!). In our practice we give the nervous system something to notice so that our awareness heightens. We “walk” towards balance. Metaphorically:
…………left foot – (maybe a sense of discomfort); right foot (towards a sense of ease); we take small steps and continue “walking” until we reach our destination….
Look forward to seeing some of you this term.