Sunday, 8 November 2015

Active & Distracted

I've noticed that my yoga practice has changed over the last year to a slower and more restorative approach, without conscious intention. I trained as a teacher (and spent much of my own practice) in vigorous Power Yoga with plenty of sun salutations and strengthening poses. I still do this on some days when I have the energy, but it's rare I'm able to splurge this energy on my mat rather than at the gym or in the pool. With hypothyroid I've learnt to capitalise on the days I feel OK.

I love how our body guides us in the right direction if we listen. For me it's to slow down, unwind and let go. Much of my past training mentality revolved around pushing harder and going further, which is OK in part because you need to explore the limits of your potential in sport just as we can sometimes do in yoga.

However, there is another way - to rest in a pose and invite the body to open up, so you can move deeper, and deeper still.

This also applies to freediving - a sport where you can't force your body to go further on one breath. You can only explore your 'edge' in a relaxed way to see if body and mind are optimal to allow you on further. I've never seen myself as a natural freediver as I've always been like the Duracell bunny - keep going until the batteries run out. Freediving has taught me to relax whilst also facing my fears and overcoming nerves. I think I gravitated towards the pool events because I could keep moving all the way through my breath-hold, keeping myself active and distracted. The one freedive discipline I dislike the most is the best training for me - to lie still in breath-hold and encourage my mind to drift into stillness (known as static apnea).

So now my yoga is mainly still and focused to counter-balance the active and distracted. My favourite is Yin Yoga where each pose is held for around five minutes at a time. That gives me plenty of opportunity to watch my breath, feel both the stiff and comfortable parts of my body and rest. It's not physically challenging, but does bring you face to face with your need to be distracted. I only need to look around at everyone staring at their phones, tablets or TVs to see I'm not the only one!

In her book 'Awakening the Spine' Vanda Scaravelli says "You have to learn how to listen to your body, going with it and not against it, avoiding all effort or strain. You'll be amazed to discover that, if you are kind to your body, it will respond in an incredible way". 

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