Exploring The Other Limbs of Yoga Outside of Asana
The past few months, I've gone back and forth in my head with this guilt and pride about my yoga practice. On one hand, I feel like I've entirely lost my grip on what drew me to yoga. On the other hand, I feel more empowered than ever in what yoga means to me.
The biggest shift? I've almost entirely stopped practicing asana - the physical practice.
Maybe it was the dropping of "Kicking Asana" and a release of "responsibility to live up to a certain persona. Maybe it's been my 1 Giant Mind meditation teacher training and pranayama training. Whatever the case, it's been an entirely different world exploring the other limbs of yoga and releasing my grip on what my yoga practice "should" look like.
I felt called to write this post because of the noise I see on the Internet. The pressure as yogis and yoga teachers we feel (or at least I did) to post photos in challenging postures started to sit funky with me. You may have noticed that I hardly post photos in yoga poses anymore, and if you were curious why, then keep reading.
The yoga culture online can be empowering and inspiring, but it can also be dangerous and disillusioning. This isn't going to be a jab at the beautiful pages you see on Instagram - I'm friends with many of these girls and still feel immensely inspired by them.
However, when I see "influencers" - I put this in quotes because it's not a term I resonate with, a high following does not mean you have influence! - in the yoga space sharing photos of poses or how-to's that are contradictive to anatomy, I worry that their guidance is pointing people in the wrong direction. Often times, providing inaccurate instructions and risking injury for most people's bodies. Please stop putting your foot on your knee in tree pose!
I also know that I've looked at photos on Instagram and felt my ego take over. I know I'm not the only one that has felt this way. To be honest, I just don't want to contribute to that problem. I look at my page as a way to inspire and uplift so rather than coming from an egoic space in my practice, I have come to recognize that all I want to do is provide value and lift others up.
So in enters the other limbs of yoga...specifically, breath work (pranayama) and meditation (dhyana).
Over the past few months, I have dedicated myself to the practice of meditation and breath work. I say this all the time, but people are going to get over the physical practice and want the next "spiritual high" and I feel confident this is where meditation and breath work comes in.
My mentor, Caley Alyssa, has said it best:
"A century from now, people are going to be looking back at us thinking we were crazy for not meditating just as we did a century ago when brushing your teeth wasn't a daily norm."
A daily meditation practice has completely shifted my life in ways that the physical practice, asana, just hasn't ever done. Yes, it is a moving meditation, but there is something so powerful in sitting with yourself for 15-20 minutes that ripples out into so many areas of your life.
Meditation is a non-negotiable for me now and everyone around me has noticed the shifts. These shifts include:
- Less reactive: It's all about responding from an intelligent and intuitive space
- More focused: Tasks have been easier to get through and my mind doesn't feel so distracted when I am working
- More deliberate and clear: My levels of discernment of activities and people have totally increased. I am much faster to understand what people and environments serve me versus what do not.
- Less stressed: This is a big one. I can confidently say I "don't sweat the small stuff"
- Generally higher levels of happiness for extended periods of time: YES.
Knowing that I not only see this in myself but others like Corey, see this in me too is enough to keep me on the track of meditation.
Get Started With Meditation
If you think you "just aren't good for meditation" you are wrong. Sorry, there's no softer way to put it, but even 5 minutes a day will make a difference, so start there and use any of the following tools to help you get started.
- 1GiantMind: Free App on iPhone - it will ALWAYS be free
- My Guided Meditations - $10 for lifetime access and awesome specific guided meditations
- GlobeIn Mindfulness Box - You can read a full post about what's included in it. I love all the little touches they've added to make my meditation space extra special and sacred.
P.S. This post is not sponsored, I use these tools every week, if not every day, to meditate.
Breathwork has certainly been harder to incorporate into my daily routine because it isn't as effortless as meditation is, but when I do it, man I feel the difference. There are dozens of styles of breathwork out there and I encourage you to explore as many different styles that speak to you as possible. I personally love including Eastern Pranayama like kapalbhati or bhastrika in my routine before meditation.
Some of the biggest shifts I've personally found from a consistent breathwork practice:
- Less brain fog or mental fatigue: These styles of breathwork are meant to energize your entire physical body and nervous system and are great if you need a mental pick me up
- A fast track to meditation: On the days when I feel my mind is restless before sitting down, adding in five minutes of breathwork prior to my meditation always clears out the noise in my head.
- Major mood booster: Paired with meditation, I always feel like my mood is heightened after 20-25 minutes of breathwork x meditation in the morning.
Get Started with Breathwork
I don't currently have any favorite resources available online, but I suggest you search for "breathwork techniques" on Google and watch some Youtube videos. You can also research different workshops in your area as there is growing popularity and demand for breath throughout the world. I have done Transformational or Ecstatic Breathwork before and it is a truly powerful experience that I highly recommend.
Additionally, if you are pregnant or have cardiovascular or respiratory health issues, please consult with your doctor before trying any as the styles listed above are contradictive for these health issues.
To wrap things up, I want to again state that this is not a jab at your Vinyasa classes or Bikram yoga classes. Those are all great and I truly believe that when we get to a point of wanting to explore the other limbs of yoga, all the right resources will fall into place. If you have any questions at all about my journey or your own journey, please don't hesitate to leave a comment. I absolutely love talking about and learning about these subjects so I welcome any feedback!