How We Hold Ourselves, On and Off the Yoga Mat
When guiding the physical practice of yoga, I consciously ask practitioners to assess how they are feeling the space around them; from the connection of our feet to the yoga mat, right up to the tilt of the head.
To me, this is an essential element, because it’s about assessing the unconscious micro-movements; the repetitive patterns of the body that become habitual.
In recognising the patterns, we each are offered the opportunity to feel into how we take up space; how we occupy our bodies – our only mode of transport on the journey that we call life. Our bodies provide a direct route to experiencing and connecting with life and the space around us. Too often we are afraid to be seen.
It’s not uncommon to be psychologically or verbally told or programmed to ‘be less’. We just don’t always recognise that we’re being conditioned to shrink to fit.
As children, we may have been taught to stay out of sight, to hide in a corner, to be quiet, go to a different room etc. All patterns which subconsciously tell us to hide, to take up less space, not to be seen.
When we grow into adults, we are also taught to behave a certain way; that to react or speak out may not always be the best solution. That if we don’t look a certain way, we are less than we should be. So, we hide away, we shrink, we don’t want to be seen. We take up less space – not holding ourselves tall and proud.
Subconsciously we weave a web of fear about being seen, so we become less.
If you suffer this condition, it’s vital that you allow the mat to be safe space to really spread out. To show up.
In a simple pose like Tadasana (Mountain), really let your feet spread, let the legs push into the ground. From root to rise. Let the arms spread a little. Internally gather to centre, let everything activate and come alive. Externally spread out, activate every single fibre.
Come alive with awareness.
Feel into taking up space on the mat and soon you’ll start to release inhibitions when you step beyond it.
In being ‘more’, in taking up space, we allow ourselves to be seen.
And along with this attitude and new way of being, comes a letting go of fear. We lean into the possibility of un-doing the years of doing, hiding and being ‘less’ than we are.
This attitude creates an oceanic wave that shifts the landscape of life beyond the edges of the mat. Practicing yoga regularly or deepening your practice with a yoga teacher training gradually promotes a sense of letting go, choosing to be balanced and mindful beyond the mat.
Be encouraged to:
- Let the session space be sacred. Drop fears as you enter. Just be
- Let everything expand when you are on the mat
- Take up as much space as possible; stretch in and feel all that occurs
- Be unafraid to be seen
- Let the breath deepen
- Let the breath be more audible
- Spread toes wide
- Open fingers generously
- Shoulders roll back and down
- Relax your jaw and release your neck
It doesn’t have to require effort. Let your body spread in a delicious way. So you alight from within. This can be one of the most revolutionary parts of the practice; observing how we hold ourselves between ground and the clouds. Allow the mat to hold you. Observe without judgment. And watch the shifts occur.
This may sound difficult or challenging initially. With qualified and supportive teachers, and an open mindset, you can change the way you hold yourself even with a beginner-level course such as a 200-hour yoga teacher training. The immersive nature of the yoga teacher training program will allow you to feel safe while transforming yourself. This is even more true at Sampoorna Yoga, where you will grow and transform with the support of both teachers and students.