Shedding the last year’s skin of the snake and emerging as a Green Wood Horse into a year of renewal.
Drips from icicles remaining from the Polar Vortex lend to new life promising to rise to the surface.
It is with these thoughts that I remember a very important goal alongside practicing yoga regularly…to set an intention each time I return to my mat and to carry it beyond.
Setting intentions on the mat gives each practice deeper meaning and focus to devote to postures.With each inhalation and exhalation, that intention buds and blossoms so that when laying in savasana, the answers you seek have space to present themselves. Yet, if they do not, your intention becomes your daily meditation and you have created space for answers to be explored.
Our bodies hold much of our emotions in ways we don’t always expect. One new to yoga may not realize the cause behind their tightness thinking they are just “out of shape” or “not very flexible” and that is just the way it is. But, that is not the way it is. Years of holding anger, hurt, sadness, frustration, or misunderstanding accumulates in our bodies and we can only live this way until our body cannot hold those poisons anymore and we get sick.
When I was new to yoga, instructors would ask the class to set an intention. I wasn’t sure exactly what they meant but would think “I want be happy” which was a very vague intention and henceforth, I didn’t gain as much clarity as I do now from my practice. Yoga is an evolution; it is practice in posture and life and takes time to fully grasp how we unfold with it. The yoga life is a slow and gentle process to recognize ourselves and what lies in front of us and until we are ready, we may not see clearly.
I recently read a passage in Bringing Yoga to Life that we cannot open our internal “box of monsters” all at once because it would scare us to bits. We must release them one at a time, fully engage with them before letting them go. Then process their very existence before letting out another one. This can take time and we must tend to and learn to love our released monsters so that we can gently let them go.
I attended a workshop at a yoga festival and learned about the psoas muscle. It is nestled deep inside our body, running along the vertebral column and next to our pelvis. We engage this muscle regularly in sitting and standing and it is long known for holding emotions. But as with our box of monsters, we must release these emotions slowly, carefully and with full attention so we don’t damage ourselves in the process. At the beginning of this workshop, because I did not understand the psoas muscle, I admittedly felt like I was not getting the most “bang for my buck” because the lesson was so subtle. I wanted more meditation, more flow, less talk about this muscle and less of the same poses. It wasn’t until the end of the class that clarity flooded me in savasana and released long held emotions about myself; there was more freedom in the flow than I realized.
Paying attention to the psoas muscle in various postures, the instructor spoke of treating our Self as our beloved, loving those parts of us that often make us cower in disdain. Without knowing it, these became my intentions and stay with me today. I often pay attention to my psoas muscle especially during difficult times, remembering to give it attention and release its tension.
Shortly after this workshop, setting my intention at the start of practice became very important. No longer do I make vague intentions. At times, a wide stretching intention is necessary but usually, I set a very specific intention; last week it was “to find more patience with myself and my daughter” after a difficult week of her misbehavior. Over the course of the practice, it evolved into patience for everyone, for life, and for ups and downs. But it specifically helped to see my daughter in a different light and to love myself when I make mistakes as I will continue to do. Life has become easier, lighter and more loving by virtue of paying attention to what matters and remembering my intention.
Yesterday my intention was “freedom from the things that hold me back in relationships and in everyday interactions”. There was a woman next to me in class who did not want to look at me when our teacher asked us to say “Namaste” to our neighbor. She was embarrassed and uncomfortable. I feel those same constraints in various ways and that is specifically the kind of freedom I seek. Throughout our flow of postures I learned to continue searching myself and releasing my monsters so that freedom will encompass my mind and body and clear answers and opportunities will become present in my path.
This morning during my home practice, my intention was “tolerance.” I wasn’t sure why this word presented itself but went with it. My elderly dog was in my way and at first I felt annoyed, not having fully woken up and trying to fit my practice in before the kids awoke, that she was there taking up the space I needed. But I didn’t ask her to move because she was comfortable. At the end of my morning practice, I looked at my dog still lying at the end of my mat and felt grateful for her presence. Focusing on tolerance showed me that what we might find bothersome one moment may become welcome if seen in the right light.
Yoga is beyond stretching and strengthening. If we set an intention early, it stays with us throughout the day and reminds us of what we want out of our practice, out of ourselves and out of life. Life is our practice and setting a daily intention makes each daymore meaningful and fulfilling. Yoga helps us to clearly see the way.
For more information on the psoas muscle click here.