Its well known that body attitudes (as well as breath) convey a state of feeling. The way a person’s body is held, composed or inhabited shows clearly what is going inside that particular person.
We often say in our meditation practice you have to lean-in into the practice. In other words, be open, take notice and grasp the practice with body and mind.
In yoga science there is an acceptance that the mind and the body are one and the same. Together they comprise ‘field’ of experience or energy. The mind is said to be a subtle version of body and the body a gross version of the mind.
We all have direct experience of this everyday through feeling the impact of our thoughts and emotions in the body. For example: Where do you feel love, fear, anxiety, happiness, worry, excitement, sadness etc? They start in one’s mind but are felt directly in the body via the nervous, endocrine, respiratory, circulation and muscular systems.
It all works like one big feed-back loop too. So its stands to reason, if we work on the body and breath with physical yoga we are working on the mind too.
Next time you are in a meeting, waiting for the tram, standing in-line at the bank take a moment to observe the postures of others. Don’t pass judgment; just notice the variety of positions people seem to unknowingly adopt.
More importantly, take a moment to observe your own. You will notice that your body is not as obedient as you might think. In fact you are barely in control, as it is often restless, impatient or troubled by feelings of discomfort and agitation. We fidget, we change position we lean and slump. Most of the time we are unaware of the body or what its doing.
As most of us live elsewhere, via our heads its no wonder we don’t notice what is really going on. Being body aware (in a good way not in an Instagram-Kardashian way) changes everything and helps take back more control of who and where you are in the moment.
Its very rare that you see people just standing, or sitting still in conscious control. As we learned from Jacki Chan in the Karate Kid, being still and doing nothing are two very different things. We practice this awareness in our yoga classes a great deal. Its harder than you think. However the body (and breath) is the only thing we have that is always in the present. So knowing it and then using it as a starting point towards being present to ourselves in the real world is vital.
So try this little ‘standing’ yogic practice next time you are queuing for a bank clerk:
- Stand with your feet parallel about a hip width apart. Feet flat on the floor.
- Gently draw you knees upwards and feel the legs straighten a little and the feet push into the floor.
- From your feet guide you attention upwards through the body feeling the upper body, chest, shoulders and head lift and extend softly upwards. You will need to do this often.
- Relax and rest the arms and hands down by your sides.
- Keep the eyes open gazing softly forwards. Breathe through the nose.
- Think- this is not me waiting in a queue. This is just standing.
- Think- stillness, not moving-ness.
- Don’t think- I wish this queue would hurry up!
Keep your attention on the practice and notice how you feel. Notice a softening sense of calm and relaxation as it gradually flows through the body. Notice the feeling of being present, purposeful and aware. Notice how aware you become of yourself in the moment, of your surroundings, of others. For a moment or two everything feels brighter, lighter, painless and effort dissolves.
The body is our point of orientation. It can, if we let it act like a compass needle that always settles northward. The body becomes a know point from which to move outwards and inwards unifying our internal and external worlds. In architecture we would call this a benchmark, coordinate or a level, a defined fixed point in space from which one can design and create with purpose and confidence.
But we can only know this ‘fixed point’ for sure if we learn to be still and notice it.
Once you have caught this little moment of being-ness, you can, with the guidance of a good teacher, learn to use it often in what ever you are doing, wherever you are. Then you will find that not only do you have more control you will experience a freedom to explore and roam right in the heart of being still.