For many of us life is anything but ‘easy’. Many of us were probably taught by our parents that nothing comes without effort and there is no such thing as an easy life. It might be possible that we could maybe someday, just maybe, if we work hard enough, long enough, and don’t mess up too badly along the way – we just might be able to let down a bit when we get old. Chances are though that by then we will be too old to enjoy the fruits of our labors anyway. So there just is NOT any such thing as an easy life… right? And I wonder how many of us who practice yoga take these beliefs with us to the yoga mat as we struggle our way through an asana sequence.
What if there was an easier way. I believe that all of us, at some time in our life, have experienced what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls FLOW in his book on the psychology of optimal experience. Flow happens when everything seems just right. We are engaged in life and the experience is fantastic. Nothing needs to be changed in that moment. Everything works. Do you remember such a time in your life? Now wouldn’t it be great if we could have more moments like that?
In the years that I have been a practicing yoga therapist and yoga practitioner, I have on many occasions experienced those moments. Moments of feeling really ‘connected’ to all of who I am. My thoughts, feelings, and actions, along with my sense of self in relation to the universe have all been in harmonious agreement. Just like a moment when you watch a beautiful sunset and let out a soft sigh in celebration of the moment you are experiencing.
I have come to believe that within each of us there is an ‘authentic self’ and when we can live our life from this place of authenticity or realness within ourselves we are truly flowing with life. We see it often in children playing without any censorship of their movements, thoughts or expression. Can adults do that? Can we really allow ourselves that level of freedom? Or are we more connected to a contextual framework of a bigger world that calls for some moderation lest we deviate from acceptable behavior?
How about a middle ground. Just as children can spontaneously act without too much thought, we as adults can also, AND we can choose WHEN to let ourselves do so, and WHEN not too. We can be aware of ourselves in each moment and the context in which we find ourselves and we can act from a place of “authenticity” and with choice, along with an evaluation of the context and the consequences of the choice. In other words we are finely tuned to ourselves and to our environment and can act in any moment with full awareness of both. We do not act like programmed robots but as living, breathing, attuned, beings guided from deep within by our spirit and our unique identity and the interaction between all of that and the world we live in.
So what stops us?. Perhaps we’ve spent too many years acting from our “shoulds’ and “have to’s” and “ought to’s” as well as acting out our fears of failure, danger, freedom, or whatever. It takes not one but often several leaps in faith and consciousness for us to move from our habitual life patterns to living authentically. One of the steps and a very important one is awareness. Without an awareness of what we ARE doing (and being) and what is happening to determine that, we cannot know what we could be doing (and being) instead.
And one of the easiest ways I know to increase this level of awareness comes though paying attention to our bodies. Our minds are slippery and can deceive us. Our bodies on the other hand offer a true instrument that respond in every moment to out thoughts, feelings, beliefs, spirit, and sense of ourselves. If we can find a way to learn about ourselves from our bodies we have a ready made source of information to help us attune to that elusive “authentic self”.
I believe Yoga is probably the oldest somatic therapy. For centuries yogis have used the body as a vehicle for attunement. In today’s busy world attunement to ourselves is even more important if we hope to navigate life with any degree of freedom or ease. In developing Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy I have sought to offer a modality that can help people empower themselves in their lives. It mostly involves therapist assisted yoga postures with coaching around awareness to use the body as instrument for attunement at all levels – body, mind, spirit, feelings, and sense of self in life. Many have found it helps to attune to their authentic self and as a result of the work, begin to flow more freely in harmony with life and with much less struggle. We can also adapt our individual practice of Yoga (when practiced with conscious awareness) as a way of attunement and self-empowerment. When practiced this way, I believe yoga has much to offer us, as form of self-help psychology for living in a modern world and giving us more of those “sunset” moments in our daily lives.
For use permission please contact Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org