This blog series sheds a little light on how we FYC teachers take our practice off the mat and into our lives. This month we feature the beloved Kara Douglas. Kara teaches a very popular Slow Flow class on Thursday mornings in Freeport, and is the owner of Fishmoon Yoga. Here, she eloquently describes how she lives her yoga.
In the busyness of our lives, we tend to compartmentalize yoga practice to a quiet space in a clean room with a mat demarking the territory within which our tensions can subside and our stress unwind. In short, a space unlike the stage upon which we play out the rest of our lives – louder, messier and more chaotic with fewer clear boundaries and more external demands.
Though we turn to the mat so that we can re-enter our lives with more clarity and calm, the translation of insights from one space to the other can be tricky, especially so if asana is our only practice. As our practice of yoga deepens, we continue to refine our sense of subtlety, including the less obvious sensations of the body and movements of the mind. A doorway opens into the rich potential of practice in situations.
One approach to this could be to consider the eight limbs of classical yoga as outlined in the yoga sutras. Each of the eight limbs can be sub-divided into practices that make them useful in daily life. Here are two examples:
Many of us are familiar with the practice of pranayama or breath control. While we may choose not to enter into a formal breathing practice in the midst of a stressful meeting, we could, as Pema Chodron suggests, “ take a few deep breaths without making a big project of it”. We could breathe a little more deeply, stay aware of thought, feeling, sensation and recommit to staying present in whatever form that takes.
Perhaps a practitioner is investigating the yamas, or yoga’s principles of social conduct. Satya, the practice of truthfulness, encourages us to be aware of exaggeration, embellishment and the untruths – both large and (perhaps more insidiously) small – that infiltrate our words and actions. We could commit ourselves to being a little bit less untrue, to refrain from embellishing, delete a few of the little white lies that we unintentionally generate. In so doing, we move closer to truth.
Personally, I appreciate the “not making a big project of it” approach to daily practice. If I can recognize when I’m forgetting or reacting and spend a moment or two regaining my equilibrium, then get on with my day, I can continue to lay the foundation of humility and commitment. The voice of harsh self-assessment can be uprooted as attention moves to the point of practice: the breath, the restraint from embellishing, or whatever the cue may be.
When I practice in this way, even during times when access to my mat practice may be limited, I find that the asanas themselves tend to feel more relevant and more fully charged with the potential to steady my mind or move toward change.