If you wish you could feel as empowered, as strong, and as free from fear off your yoga mat as you do on it, this is for you. If you walk down the street or sit in your office or hang out with people and find yourself wishing you could feel less, well, less, this is for you. If you wonder how some people seem to walk through life full of confidence, radiating joy and vibrancy, and wish you could—this is for you.
I woke up one morning, after a dedicated yoga practice of a few months or so—combined with some total health revamping—to a completely bizarre sensation I couldn’t ever remember experiencing before. Ever. It was peace. It was getting out of bed without the feeling of someone’s hands around my throat. It was sitting at my desk in my office and feeling near total calm when a colleague asked me for something or the phone rang. It was walking home from the produce store, in a state of flow and grace—aware of the feeling of my feet connecting to the ground and the breath in my chest. I looked around at all the people around me and thought to myself, “My gawd! Do other people actually feel like this ALL the TIME! Is THIS possible for more than a fleeting moment?”
It was peace; it was a state of no-fear. But it was more than that. It was love. And I don’t mean the romantic kind. I mean the big love, the deeper love, the all-encompassing love that goes far beyond our physical self and exists in and around all of us. I mean that love. (‘Cause as the universe and my best girlfriends are well-aware, I’m no expert in the other kind.) I mean the kind of love that lifts you up from within, that soothes your mind and your cells and your soul.
This is yoga. This is living yoga. This is taking the practice and benefits and bliss of being on our mat OFF our mat. Out into the world. Into our lives. This is unity. Ok, Lindsey, sounds good, sounds grandiose, and just how exactly do we do that?
Oh, there are SO many ways! So many ways. Here are a few:
1. Love your ego. There’s a lot of talk in yoga classes about meeting experiences with equanimity—so that no matter what you are doing or experiencing you are neither self-congratulatory of self-flagellating. This is about going beyond our ego—the part of us we all have, that identifies our being with a limited sense of who we are, and gets all caught up in glory or despair. It’s a beautiful wonderful thing to be able to go beyond that part to the love and peace that exists around it and within us. BUT, we cannot get there, absolutely cannot get there, if we don’t also offer love and compassion to our ego. How we treat one part of ourself is how we treat our whole self. So as you become aware of the self-congratulatory or self-flagellating thoughts while you’re on your mat, don’t disparage them, or get angry with them. Offer them love and kindness. And then let them be on their way.
2. Breathe. Fear and anxiety and stress are all dependent on an imbalanced nervous system. Our sympathetic nervous system pumps stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline into our blood stream and our parasympathetic nervous system—the ‘rest and digest’ system—takes a backseat. Study after study has shown that when we deepen our breath, particularly our exhales, we decrease the stress response and increase the rest and digest response. From this place, fear ducks away and love slides into place.
3.Get really mindful. To back away from the fear-based thinking, give your mind something totally innocuous and peace-inducing to think about. Give it something else to be mindful of: the feeling of your feet in your shoes, the sounds around you—or one in particular, the vision in front of you—or a certain lovely aspect of it. Dive into peace. And once you are there, you’re on the path to love.
4. Watch your thoughts. You know how when you’re in meditation, you often watch your thoughts so you can watch them go by, instead of getting caught up in them? The more we do this on our mat, the more we can do this off our mat. And those fear-based thoughts that don’t serve you? You get to choose whether or not to believe them, or give them any attention whatsoever.
5.Mantra. Om Mani Padme Hum is a beautiful mantra, and one I absolutely love. Mantra sadhana teacher Thomas Ashley-Farrand says this about it: “In the Tibetan tradition, it’s used more than any other mantra. It means: The jewel of consciousness has reached the heart’s lotus. When heart and mind are united, anything is possible.”
From fear to love—anything is possible!
[Editor’s note: This is a guest post by liberated living life coach and yoga teacher Lindsey Lewis, founder of www.libreliving.com.]