Namaste Yogis & Yoginis,
Time is precious. Time is infinite. You have all the time in the world yet your time is limited. Every word you speak or read, every action you take, every thought you have uses time. You can never turn time back or relive it. That word or action you wish you could turn the clock back for, even just by second cannot be regained. Time can be used, relished or wasted. Perhaps the greatest mindfulness of all is the awareness of time. Some of us want to be present only when the experience is pleasant. Longing for the weekend while at work. Wanting time to pass when we are waiting for something. But this is wishing time away, wishing your life away. Be present with it all. When at work, be at work. Appreciate your skills and ability to do what you do. Acknowledge every person you interact with as the miracle they are. Use difficult interactions as a training ground to practice bodhicitta (the mind of compassion) or to stay centred and steady. These skills will not be wasted in living a fulfilling life. The queue or waiting room is a chance to meditate, to admire the sky or trees, to be amazed at the diversity of people, to imagine their stories, to mentally chant or sing, to envisage your best outcome. There are so many ways to make “dead” time come alive. When depressed don't wish it away or resist it (what you resist persists is actually often accurate!) Accept it, explore it, try to discover what it has to teach you. Is it showing you where your life is out of balance? Where you are not living your values or highest truth? That your nutrition or life/work balance is out of whack? Often paying attention to your depression shows you the path out. Sometimes it is the only way you can get some respite from the world. Time moves on and so should you. The depression can change form and leave if you stay present and move to the next phase. Sometimes you need help from someone to stay present. Ask. Connect. When happy, don't try and attach or hold onto it, this will only lead to suffering. Allow happiness. It comes and it goes, but allowing and being present brings with it a contentment, a peace that becomes an underlying platform to your experiences. Remember to give your time to all areas that are important in your life. A rich and fulfilling life is often one that is purposeful, present, enjoyable, loving and healthy. Don't give all your time to your career and neglect your loved ones and health. And vice versa. Discipline is your friend when managing time – most of the time. Be aware of when the time you spend tips the scale from being useful to excessive. Sleeping for 7-8 hours a day is good for your health. Sleeping 12-14 may not be. Of course during a convalescence or enjoying an occasional luxurious sleep-in may be just what you need, but generally not on a regular basis. The quality of time can depend on your discipline and your attention. You can be with a friend or your kids for hours, but not remember a thing they said, if you are worrying about something at work, or resenting a flippant comment. Ask yourself is it worth it? The contradiction is that letting discipline go and just being is equally valuable. If you are constantly pushing, driven, not enjoying the beautiful day because there is a speck of dust in the house and you have to vacuum... let go. Viveka is the discernment to know what is the best thing to do in any given moment. What will have the highest outcome, for the greatest good, remembering to include bliss and joy in that possibility, balanced with purpose. It's not always easy, but it is simple. Be aware. All of the time you can.
ADAPT, ADJUST, ACCOMODATE
It is important to remember to make your practice your own, according to your energy, disposition, body, experience, knowledge and health. You should step onto the mat fresh each practice with no expectations of how you should feel, or what you should or shouldn't be able to do. Each practice is a unique combination of how you are that day, the weather, the teacher, the class, the other students, the food you've eaten, how you've slept, global events, life circumstances – there really are no two practices the same – so you need to pay attention to what you need that day.
As Swami Sivananda says ADAPT, ADJUST, ACCOMODATE.
If you have tight hamstrings – modify, bend your knees, be gentle. Hamstrings are closely related to back health so forcing them can strain the back as well as keep them stiff as they tend to rebel!
If you have tight hips – modify! Go as far as you can while maintaining a calm awareness. Hip flexibility is closely linked to knee action, going further can place strain on your knees. Do not practice postures that put pressure on your knees.
If you are tired or unwell – modify. Choose passive options rather than active ones. Choose restorative postures. Sit in meditation between postures rather than doing a vinyasa. Spend more time in Savasana. Practice a long Supta Baddha Konasana – this is great for many causes of tiredness and ill health.
If you are menstruating or pregnant – modify. Your health and your baby's health depend on it.
If on your moon cycle – NO inversions, strong twists, strong backbends or abdominals.
If pregnant – inversions are ok (if you practice them regularly – but again NO strong twists, strong backbends or abdominals.
If you are carrying a bit of extra weight – or have just eaten – modify. You may need to seperate your knees/legs in forward bends, or use a bolster or chair to support your head, create space for your belly and focus on leg action. You may need to avoid inversions for a while. Give yourself more space in twists – either choosing gentler twists like cross legs twist, or keeping both feet on same side of knee instead of crossing it over.
Always make sure you can breathe fully and maintain awareness of the sensations in the body and mind. Bliss is also part of the practice. Although you might be challenged during it, afterwards you should feel a change in your being from one of less peace to more, from a busy mind to a less busy mind, from a negative state to a more positive one. It is this change that lets you know you have practiced yoga and not simply done some physical exercise. Being present to your practice and not over-riding your body will help you get there.
Your teacher should be able to give you alternate postures if you are unsure what to do. Just ask! If you have a more serious or ongoing condition (such as a knee injury or pregnancy) the ideal would be to have a private session to find out what poses you can or can't do, and how to modify so you can participate in the class confidently and practice in the best way to support your body's needs.
You can always ask your teacher for tips before or after class if there is time. Please be respectful of the teachers and other students time. Otherwise, feel free to email us if you have a question on firstname.lastname@example.org