September marks my 11-year anniversary of practicing Ashtanga yoga! It’s no exaggeration that saying yes prioritizing yoga has saved and even ruined my life as one of my teachers is famous for saying. Every day I unroll my mat, I say yes to observe my mental and physical state of the moment. And let’s be clear: by “observe my state”, what I really mean is talk to myself.
When I step my feet into the soft, firm Liforme foam, my inner practice queen shows up. She always greets me with some version of “Hey girl, you made it! Welcome back! What should we do today?” I always answer her back with whatever I feel is true in the moment. “I’ve got 30 minutes” or “I’m tired and sore” or “Let’s do three sun As and sun Bs and see what happens”. The cliché is true: the hardest part is getting to the mat. Whatever happens after, be it a five or 90-minute practice, happens. This practice brings me home. Inhaling and lifting my arms up in the first sun salutation feels like connecting with an old friend-who-knew-me-when.
In 2009, I came to my mat filled with erratic breathing, a racing mind, and sensations of tightness everywhere. These days I feel more embodied fluidity and calm even in the presence of that same mental and physical stiffness. And while my teachers, community, practice space, mats, and fashion have all changed, what hasn’t changed in 11 years is the deep sense of calm I feel after practicing yoga. Ashtanga yoga follows a set sequence of postures. While some might think practicing the same sequence of every day is boring, many of us find deep calm in routine. The benefits of routines and mental health are well-documented and while getting started on a new routine is the hardest part, the more you do it, the easier it gets.
As a practice-anniversary gift to you, I’d like to share how you can calm your mind with yoga on and off the mat.
Four Ways to Calm Your Mind with Yoga
1. Join a Yoga Class
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Because being in a body is the way we move in the world, it makes sense that most people come to yoga to feel better, stronger, or more flexible. Come practice with me online or in-person! If you want to explore Ashtanga, here’s my regular teaching schedule (all times in Central USA). Click the link below to sign up!
- Mondays: 6-7 AM: Delta Groove Yoga – online only
- Wednesdays: 9-10 AM: Legato Yoga – online only
- Thursdays: 11-12 noon: Online Yoga with Rachel – online only
- Saturdays: 8:30-10 AM: Delta Groove Yoga – in-studio and online
Every First Friday of the month, I offer a free 30-minute class to those who want to try yoga or get a practice in before the weekend. Click the link below to sign up!
2. Deepen Your Breath
One of the easiest ways to access calm quickly is breathing deeply. It can be done anywhere and requires no special equipment. If you prefer some guidance, download my five-minute meditation to help you get started. Enter your name and email below to download your free Metta (loving-kindness) meditation!
3. Repeat Phrases
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With the Metta meditation above, you repeat these phrases to yourself:
- May I be happy and peaceful.
- May I be healthy and strong.
- May I be safe and protected from inner and outer harm.
- May I be filled with ease.
You can choose any phrase that you want to bring yourself calm. Other helpful phrases:
- May I care about this pain.
- May I care about the pain of others.
- I am enough.
- I have enough time and resources.
4. Cultivate Compassion for Self & Others
The work we do in yoga and meditation teaches us more compassionate ways of being. This does not mean we sit passively by and do nothing as the horrors and injustices of the world unfold around us. It does not mean we use yoga as an escape from real life or as a means to oversimplify or dismiss conflict with “we are all one” which is known as spiritual bypassing. Practicing yoga calms and prepares us to show up in the chaos of the world. It gives us space to process how we want to show up for social, racial, economic, and injustice. Cultivating compassion allows us to see people for who they are, even the ones we loathe the most. It requires us to stand with one foot on either side of the line and see the humanity in those who we believe are harmful.
To learn more about yoga and social justice, I invite you to come practice and learn from Shanna Small on Saturday, October 10, 2020 from 8:30 – 11 AM. She will lead us through a full led primary class at Delta Groove Yoga and give a one-hour talk on how to use your yoga practice to show up for social justice.
To register, click the photo below or sign up with this link.
I hope this post inspires you to find some calm within the chaos of 2020. I’d love to know: which way is easiest and which way is most difficult? Leave a comment below. Hope to see you on your mat soon!