How Feeling Safe in Yoga Can Keep You Safe in Life
I feel safe. Ultimately this is what our yoga practice should be for us, a safe haven to feel & be. However, the sensations that come up in our practice, physically, mentally & emotionally can be difficult. When things are difficult we can feel afraid, judgemental or unsafe.
So how do we create safety in our practice?
By listening unconditionally & responding to what we need.
When we are aware & listening to what is arising in our practice, we can choose to respond consciously. This means that we are meeting what we feel in this moment. Trying not to go into the story of why we are feeling this or that, but simply feeling, & responding.
An example: You notice you are holding your breath during a yoga pose. Take a pause, find an easy breath & try again. If the breath is held again, made adjustments to what you are doing or move into another pose. When you are in a pose with an easy breath, a feeling of safety accompanies it.
Checking in with the intensity you feel in the body & where you feel it, is another way to stay safe. We think in our yoga practice, that our aim is to feel good. Yes, ideally, but we have to move through what is there to help us to allow that sense of ease & peace that is within us, to come to the surface.
If we just avoided every discomfort, we would just be suppressing what we feel. Instead, mindfully meet the discomfort, which might be there already, or that you may find is created in a stretch or a movement. Discomfort arises as a messenger sent to tell us something. Ask yourself in that moment, do I feel safe? If the answer is yes, continue, with a focus on the breath. If no, then come out of the pose & adjust or change it in some way.
If you are unsure, err on the side of compassion & kindness by backing off of what you are doing. This will help to create a feeling of safety when you learn to meet your boundaries & not to force past them. Cultivating this awareness in our practice will help you to know when you are feeling unsafe in life & respond accordingly.
This week in my classes, I asked each student to visualize a safe place in their mind. A place, when you go there, you feel at ease, safe & joyful. It could be a place in nature, your home, real or imagined. Create a place with your 5 senses: sight, sound, touch, smell & even taste. At first it can be hard to "see" this place in your mind, it's more of an idea. With practice, you can create this safe haven or Inner Resource (a term learned from Richard Miller : irest.us) as a way to take refuge when you need it.
Practice this visualization of your Inner Resource at times when you are in a safe place like your yoga class or at home. Using a time when you do feel more at ease & safe makes it easier to picture this safe place in your mind. The more real you can make it, the more your physical self will respond as if you are actually there.
Think of the Inner Resource as a mini holiday away from the stresses & difficulties of life. You don't need to travel in a car or plane to get there, you don't have to worry about schedules & weather, you just have to close your eyes & you can be there.
This safe haven is your respite from dealing with sensations that arise in life, but at the same time, can help you to respond to them consciously. To know you are safe in the midst of them.
Begin by simply saying "I am safe in my breath", "I am safe in my body" & truly create that feeling. Then when you are asked to feel unconditionally, no matter what comes up, "I am safe to feel". Use the breath as a bridge to connect your outer self with you inner Self so they are able to feel both simultaneously.
If you don't feel safe, realize this is a message we need to honour. We all need to learn what are our boundaries are. To be present to the knowledge that we are safe & to use our boundaries when we do not feel this way. By understanding how & when to use boundaries in our own practice, we can use them to be safe in a world that can feel anything but. We can learn to respond, not from fear, but from the wisdom that arises from our practice to know what it feels like to be & feel safe.
Here is an article, that goes into how to create safety & trust in your life.
Anne Cox E-RYT 500