“Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.”― Ancient Chinese Proverb
As Chinese Astrology follows the lunar calendar, we recently celebrated the Chinese New Year and entered into the year of the Yang (Brown) Earth Dog at the time of the second new moon of the calendar year. As an expression of unconditional love with an innate sense of intuition and resiliency, a dog’s energy is a reflection of the best parts of ourselves. The element of earth reminds us that we must remain connected to the earth through our roots as it is the earth that provides the nutrients for our growth. The masculine yang – or doing – energy of the year will support us in laying our new foundations to elevate our sense of security and balance this year and into the future.
So as you explore reconnecting with the unconditional love and acceptance that resides in your own heart on your journey this year of building a new, more secure foundation for the future, I thought you might need a little assistance in maintaining the balance between “doing” and “being” that will be required to sustain your forward moving energy this year. Therefore, below I have offered some intention-setting ideas to consider to support a daily yoga practice no matter where you are in the moment:
- Breathe. As we create space for ourselves on our mat for our yoga asana practice, what many of us quickly realize is that our breath contains the power – both the strength and flexibility we desire. The connection to the power of our breath is often the first practice we take off of our mat and out into the world. Our breath becomes our best internal guide on how to move in the external experience with the most ease and grace. So when you begin to sense an experience of overwhelm from all of “the doing”, let it be a reminder to you to simply invite your breath into the moment, breathing deeply, expansively, and with great attention for several minutes, to bring back perspective and balance. You can do this anywhere – even in traffic!
- Mudra. Many of us might have been “doing” yoga for many years on our mat and still not have learned about mudras. Mudras are yoga poses, often practiced with a focus on the hands and fingers, with the intention of supporting your body’s energy flow. The Sanskrit word mudra is translated as “seal” or “gesture” and they are powerful tools to facilitate the flow of energy in our subtle bodies. One I would recommend to practice when feeling ungrounded, scattered, and/or overwhelmed from “the doing” and to reconnect us to the earth, is Adhi mudra. Simply curl your thumbs into your palms, wrap you fingers around your thumbs, turn your knuckles down towards the earth and rest your hands on your lap. Again, you can do this practically anywhere, anytime – but maybe not in traffic!
- Mantra. Mantra is the practice of repeating a sacred sound, word or phrase, often in Sanskrit, in order to support an increase in our ability to focus or concentrate or create a shift in consciousness. Research has shown that chanting the Sanskrit sound “OM” (pronounced AUM) can change the structure of the human brain. A more modern understanding of mantra has been offered through the use of affirmations. Although different in the origin and purpose, identifying an affirmation that resonates with you and repeating it several times in a row, several times a day for several weeks might create the desired shift in perspective!
- Meditate. An often heard response to this idea is “I don’t have any time”, which is the truest indicator that such a practice might have the greatest impact. When starting a meditation practice, it does not require you to find a quiet place to sit with your legs crossed in silence for 20 minutes trying to stop your thoughts. Today there are many free applications that you can access on your mobile device and follow along with the guidance provided. Some of these meditation practices are for as little as one minute. Can you set aside just one minute each day for yourself? What you might discover over time is that you experience the world differently – with more joy or ease – after meditating, so you tend to practice longer, maybe for 20 or 30 minutes a day!
- Practice present-moment awareness. I have found that the ultimate body-mind-spirit balancing practice is the experience of presence. When we are fully present in our interactions – when we are “doing” – you can experience a resounding sense of peace and clarity. To begin to sharpen this tool of presence, stop everything you are doing for just a minute. Focus on your immediate environment, taking mental notes of the objects around you, including the colors, shapes, smells, movement, and sounds that the mind becomes aware of, possibly even engaging the sense of touch by running your fingers or hand across one of the objects. Pretend you are taking a mini video with your mind, capturing as many details as possible with the intention of describing what you see, hear, smell, and feel to someone else who missed the opportunity to experience what you are experiencing. At the end of the day, allow yourself to close your eyes for another minute to reflect on this experience to see how many details you can remember and, more importantly, sense what it feels like in the body-mind connection to have been so present in that moment. The more you keep this tool sharp, the stronger your presence grows along with a sense of connection to all!