Insights and Inspiration for a Happy, Healthy and Peaceful You

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For a Happy, Healthy and Peaceful You

Home » Yoga returns us to our bodies and the present moment

Yoga returns us to our bodies and the present moment

by Juliana Di Leonardo
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The movement of our bodies with asanas, or poses, helps to release tension, move energy, and most importantly lessen the chatter within the mind.

Our life’s journey is like adventuring through an enormous forest full of mystery and uncharted territory. It’s exciting, scary, beautiful, and dangerous. From the day we are born, and with each day that follows, we are greeted with new experiences, challenges, and growth. The paths we choose, or find ourselves on, may look very different from others, but we are all carried by similar intentions to live a happy and peaceful life.

As we mature and continue our expedition, we might find that living in the present moment becomes more difficult as the narrative we create in our head starts to demand more attention than the external world. These false thoughts and stories that we allow to monopolize our consciousness begin to cloud our judgment and will presumably take us deeper into treacherous terrain. As some people may find themselves completely lost, others may adopt a mindfulness practice that will release them from the captive depths of the woods and allow them to recover the path they were previously on.

In the United States, yoga attracts individuals looking to increase flexibility and strength. They are often enamored with the idea of getting into impressive shapes and the possibility of experiencing a “blissed out” feeling following their yoga session, but what they don’t realize is that the asanas, or poses, that they practice are only the tip of the iceberg. Yoga poses help us to connect with our bodies, the physical world, and the present moment: the “now”. The movement of our bodies helps to release tension, move energy, and most importantly lessen the chatter within the mind. Our asana practice is the prep work for finding stillness in meditation. The chatter within the mind is a normal occurrence, but it’s the overwhelming number of thoughts that can be detrimental to one’s quality of life, especially if those thoughts are negative or untrue.

There is sometimes a misunderstanding that when we sit in silence, our mind must also be silent. When we make time to sit with our thoughts, the idea is to oblige our thoughts to flow in one ear and out the other, observing them as if they were flowing along a steadily paced river. We don’t want to push them away but instead inspect them like a newly found specimen. Often, we think that the answers to our predicaments can be found externally, but the resolution to our dilemmas can be obtained from within. It is the practice of listening through being with oneself that will aid in accessing the answers we desire.

By preparing my students with various types of breathwork, poses, and mudras, or hand poses, I hope to ensure that their venture through life is more like a walk in the park rather than an all-encompassing wilderness of pandemonium.

Covid-19 greatly impacted the yoga community by taking away the traditional outlet for people to practice mindfully. Students really enjoyed coming to studios that were designated for yoga, and a place where like-minded individuals could share space. Of course, a burgeoning alternative is to take virtual classes which have the perk of rolling out of bed and onto a yoga mat, but this also means trying to find a quiet place in a busy household which can seem like an impossible feat. This pandemic also caused many people to become fearful or develop intense anxiety, furthering the need for securing relaxation and tranquility within the mind.

As a yoga instructor, I am happy that we can move towards normalcy and recreate the sangha, or community, that connected us all once before. While I teach my weekly classes, I assist my students in advancing their physical and meditative practices by regularly discussing tips and tricks that they can add to their “yoga toolbox”, which they can access anytime on or off their mat to help them endure any turbulent situations with more ease, clarity, and intuition.

During my classes, I also utilize more challenging poses, not because they are “cool” but instead to build confidence. One of my favorite poses to teach is Bakasana, or Crow pose, because it teaches people that they are more capable than they think. Every time, whether my students are young or old, when I first introduce Crow pose, people think it’s completely unattainable and impossible for them to balance on their hands. However, with practice, they begin to float and eventually find themselves holding this pose for more than a few seconds with their feet off the ground. Once they discover the sweet spot or balancing point, their excitement is all over their face and it brings me so much joy to see them progress.

Fear is one of the biggest issues for students and will prevent them from trying a new pose or quitting too early because they already made the decision that they cannot do it. However, once they start to push through the intimidating moments, their whole perspective can begin to change. They finally know that they are stronger than they thought and that they are not their thoughts, especially those overly critical ones. It’s a beautiful evolution, and they can take this experience and apply it to their everyday lives. By preparing my students with various types of breathwork, poses and mudras, or hand poses, I hope to ensure that their venture through life is more like a walk in the park rather than an all-encompassing wilderness of pandemonium.

Each day we are given the opportunity to cast a vote for the person we want or strive to be. By incorporating mindfulness into our daily routine, we can use our own guiding light to explore fortuitous avenues that bring us happiness. Yoga gives us the empowerment we’ve been looking for by bringing so many benefits to us. We can take control by connecting our body, mind, and spirit. Yoking, or uniting, these three elements will bring us freedom, peace, and self-realization. And as I often mention in my classes, the human body is made up of many team players and if some of them slack off, then simple tasks will feel unnecessarily difficult but when the body works as a team everything becomes easier. 

This week, I encourage you to start or evolve your yoga journey to better not just your poses but your life, and no matter what it looks or feels like, know that the environment you create is where peace will surely reside.

Juliana’s tree pose phot by Jesie Bray; yoga class phot by the Long Island Buddhist Meditation Center, Riverhead.

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