With each moment of awareness, we begin again. As we cycle through each breath, day, month, year… we begin again. It is the most refreshing, and most humbling realization. We are reborn! Each time we notice that we begin again we become childlike… vulnerable, passionate, tender, awed, and delighted by the most ordinary things. In each cycle we also become wise.
No matter our level of awareness, these cycles continue to move through us. We are moved by them.
When we turn attention to this phenomenon we can see the patterns more clearly. We can see that when we begin a new cycle of breath (like the one that accompanies a new lifeline when we are born,) there is an inhalation. Each day “begins” with sunrise. Each month begins with the new moon. Each year begins after the Winter Solstice (or your birthday… depending on how you measure it.) With each of these, we begin again!
What follows is a fullness that is characteristic of mid-life, mid-day, the full moon, and summertime. Often there is lots of energy, particularly a firey type of energy, in this phase. There is lots “to do” and lots of energy to do it! There may be excess energy. It often results in lots of breakouts, break-ups, and breakdowns. It can also be an incredibly productive and exuberant time.
Next is the harvest… the exhalation, the afternoon, the waning moon… this phase is where we start to release what we don’t need. We wrap up one thing and prepare for the next. It may be when you’re switching from work to family mode or from growing to preserving. You may be changing your clocks and some of your habits. You may be inclined to move more slowly and deliberately during this time. This is where we can see subtlety and let go of demands and expectations.
After the exhalation comes the winter. It is the afterlife, the overnight, the bridge to the next new moon. It is where the magic of transcendence is found. It is also where the ego, rife with a sense of responsibility, can struggle. It needs to let go.
How to begin again with your yoga practice
It is not only the new day, month or year that gives us that infusion of juicy potential… it can be a new idea or increased resolve that you anchor to that can help you to begin again.
The GREAT news about this path that we’re on is that, although it might feel like we’re right back where we started sometimes, the path is not linear. It is cyclical, and multi-dimensional. It is a spiral more than a circle. We are elevated by our experience. Yes, we begin again but each time with the accumulated experience (and wisdom) that came before it.
Wisdom comes in many forms and speaks many tongues. Yours may be a resistance to do a certain pose or type of practice. It may feel attracted or averse to different teachers or practice spaces. The clothing you wear (or don’t,) the sounds, smells, colors, and your preferences all matter. You may find that you become more willing to indulge your preference when you resolve to begin again. Maybe it’s the path, not the pace that becomes a higher priority.
This can be especially clear when the alternative to unachieveable expectations is no practice at all.
If the sub and higher consciousness are at odds (and no efforts to mediate are taken) you can be sure that there will be casualties.
How to mediate
If your having trouble getting started, first of all, know that you are not alone. Your practice is both effected by and has an effect on others. Sometimes, that effect is motivating. Hang out with people who share, not only your intention, but also some of your obstacles.
Kids, arthritis, professional demands, and a host of other competing interests will be vying for your attention and time. Others in a similar situation may have either figured out some strategies already or may be able to brainstorm and try something new with you. Get reinforcements to help with your efforts! Know what motivates you… is it the commitment to meet someone? a streak? a rush of endorphins? the chance to wear your favorite outfit or stop for a treat before or after a class? Maybe it’s a relationship with a teacher or a group of other students. Maybe it’s improving your endurance on the trail or reducing pain.
Try not to judge what motivates you… just notice it. And use it to help structure your practice.
Devise an ideal… for example: I’d like an in-person class that helps me to relax that meets once a week (at x o’clock on x day) in a room with windows (or plants, or heated floors, etc…) OR I’d like access to short online breathing and meditation instruction that I can do when I first get home from work.
Keep going with your preferences… maybe it’s cost, location, style, duration, experience or something else that is most important to you. Let it be known!
Then… and I expect your brain might like this part. You get to poll and/or scroll! You might have a couple of bookmarks (or buddies) already established as shortcuts to practice. Check their offerings against your ideal and look for overlap. See if something lands. Maybe there’s a day/time/location/cost that works well but the facilitator or duration or something else about it isn’t perfect. Would you be willing to try?
If not… keep negotiating! You might widen the scope of your search. Try putting the description of your ideal into a search engine (include your location if that’s relevant.) See what opportunitities present themselves and ask again… would you be willing to try?
After a few rounds of this, if you haven’t landed on something. Ask for an alternative. Maybe you’d be willing to try something shorter or longer, more self-guided or in a bigger group, more or less intense… but that might cost you something more. It could be that the cost is a bigger financial investment or, a modified expectation.
The pillars of yoga
The pillars of yoga, that hold us up, are said to be discipline and creativity. That means that the practice is non-negotiable and the ways in which it may manifest are limitless. YOUR yoga, YOUR mental health is uniquely YOURS. You will never fit exactly into someone else’s mold.
Notice if you tend to lean towards discipline. If you do, you might find more ease if you allow yourself some more flexibility. It is important to make a distinction here between only have two options (i.e. “do” or “don’t do”) and instead to create a number of alternatives that allow you to experience “doing more” or “doing less” without “doing everything” or “doing nothing.”
If you tend towards flexibilty, you may find that you gain traction if you add some more consistency to your practice. It can be (and probably better if it is,) quite modest. It might something as simple as a statement of intention or breathing practice at a set point during the day. Look for some consistency that’s already there and try to piggyback the practice onto it. For example, you could use brushing your teeth or putting on/taking off your socks or shoes as a prompt for practice.
Yoga for Mental Health
Yoga for Mental Health is the connection between intention and action. It just feels great to do what we are meant to do! Not too much, not not enough…
When we find this poise there is an ease that moves through us and comes from us. We are strong in our resolve, strong enough to support others. We are also sensitive to our vulnerabilities and confident enough to protect ourselves accordingly.
Practicing postures, breathing, mindfulness, and meditation gives us the experience that we need to trust our ourselves. It is the foundation upon which we can then build meaningful, trusting relationships with others. That will likely also benefit from your meditation and negotiation skills as well!
Begin again in 2024
Why not? The new year is such an obvious prompt. I also really love a new month for a new strategy and if you haven’t tackled this one first, I suggest you start here.
The reality is that our brain needs the time to build the new pathways. Don’t worry if you don’t feel the power of your resolve every Tuesday morning at 8 am. Do continue to show up on every (or most) Tuesday mornings at 8 am! Our brains also need to know that we’re not asking too much. That’s why it’s important to find the right sized container for practice. This is especially true if you’re coming off the couch!
I hope that you are feeling supported and encouraged by your presence here, with us, at Yoga for Mental Health. We are offering a myriad of practice opportunities for you in 2024. Because we all need options!
Visit our schedule to see what’s available and how it might align with your ideal and/or be useful in your negotiations. If you need help working up that ideal, consider a 1:1 session, or join one of our Winter Writing Workshops.
You can also always contact us to ask questions and get help with planning. We love connecting with you! On behalf of all beings, thank you.
May peace and joy be abundant in the year ahead!