Awareness, a word we use often in yoga.
By definition: it is knowledge or perception of a situation or fact.
When it comes to our practice, it is the perception or knowledge of what we are feeling in our body, mind, emotional & spiritual state. It is awareness that is needed to keep us safe, from not pushing too forcefully or in a way that is harmful. It is also awareness itself that can make our practice difficult, as we now are feeling things that are always there, but we tend to avoid or discount. You may have remembered when you first started moving in a yoga class that you found places in your body that were sore or painful that you didn’t know were there. This can feel overwhelming, when we go from not feeling to feeling everything. The key is to keep going & learning to meet yourself where you are without judging what you’ve found. To find compassion for the parts of ourselves we wish were not there.
I had the challenge this past week of teaching some boys age 11-16 how to gain mobility & range of motion in a Goalie camp. I have children of my own, so are used to hearing complaints, but this was a whole new level. As they moved their bodies, they felt discomfort in their muscles as they stretched & moved. They moaned & groaned, complained & avoided, (perhaps a bit of teenage drama too?) I kept saying, “Are you breathing?” the answer time & time again NO! After a week of this, they started to understand not to push their bodies past their comfort level, that the breath helped them to feel more comfortable as they moved & in the end to get more out of it. Their teenage minds were scattered & unfocused at times, but then one boy said, you know a fun fact? You said “are you breathing” 17 times yesterday. He was able to focus on something he found interesting. I hope we can find paying attention to ourselves interesting enough, not just in our yoga practice, but throughout each day.
Quite often, the things we “awaken” as we become attentive are difficult & we would rather they not be there. Instead we take our attention elsewhere, or go with the thoughts that come up in our head & spend time in the past or the future, instead or right NOW. NOW is what awareness is, meeting ourselves in the moment, exactly as we are. The good, the bad, the ugly. When instead of naming what we find in these terms, what we find is just different forms of sensation.
Can we meet that sensation, breathe & allow through our attentiveness & effort to allow change to happen?
Awareness then moves from our inner selves, to the external world:
the people we are closest to, our community, the world itself.
We take what we’ve learned in our most intimate moments to help us to navigate all of our experiences. We learn to not react to life, but to respond to it. From this point of view, we can learn not to become overwhelmed by all that is difficult, but to meet life from our new perception of awareness.
Here is a short article on how once you’ve found awareness on the mat how to use this new found connect to who you are & how those choices affect the world around you.
"Whatever we are waiting for - peace of mind, contentment, grace, the inner awareness of simple abundance - it will surely come to us, but only when we are ready to receive it with an open and grateful heart." Sarah Ban Breathnach
Anne Cox E-RYT 500