Freedom in the Flow: Making the most of your yoga practice

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.

Click for source. Great blog post on the same topic.
Click for source. Great blog post on the same topic.

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.

Kerry Winding Road Profile

21 thoughts on “Freedom in the Flow: Making the most of your yoga practice

    1. It’s inspiring, isn’t it? I’m so glad Kerry wrote this! You might also like yogadownload.com (the amount I promote these guys, you’d think I’m getting paid for it lol).

      I’ve downloaded a few of their free ones, and as soon as I have the extra cash (ha!) there are some of the paid sequences I’d like to try. Worth having a look for an at-home practice 🙂

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        1. Wow, woman! Did you write about couch to 5k? I’d be interested in reading about it cause I’ve challenged myself to an 8k run in March (not from couch, have done lots of walking, but still need a good chunk of training).

          Also – loved your latest post about childbirth and the ‘hoo ha’ – couldn’t think of anything to say in the comments except:
          hahahahahaha

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          1. haha glad you enjoyed it! Yes I have quite a few posts on Couch to 5k. I also have a section at the top of my blog called Challenges where I’ve just recorded my stats and my thoughts on it as things go on. If you want to find any of my posts on it though just click on the Couch to 5k category. I’m still running. I’m doing a 5k improver now to get faster and my next goal is 10ks. Good luck!!! Are you using a training app? I used Run Double and LOVED it. It has a bunch of programs on it and I am still using it now.

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            1. AWESOME. Left a comment on your blog. No, I haven’t been tracking myself, except that I must exercise daily for at least 30mins, and every week I do a 9k track (more hilly than the race track will be) to ‘test’ my improvement.
              So far I’ve improved by 20mins a week (down to 1.5hours now) in overall time, aiming to do it in 45mins. A friend and I have a goal to be able to run some of the tramping tracks by September this year, so training after this race will be leading up to that goal. I might utilise the app then – thanks for the suggestion!

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            1. haha, “the person that does yoga”…that’s funny 🙂 your mind/body are the same. If you live the yogi lifestyle then you are ahead of the game. The life practice is the hardest part. 🙂

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  1. Reblogged this on Winding Road and commented:
    My new friend Zee invited me to guest post on her blog and I was very happy to do so. Check out my post about setting intentions in your yoga practice and how it translates to intention in your life beyond the mat. After reading this post, check out some of her other posts, she has some great ideas, inspirations and lessons to learn from.

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  2. You have such great time of this post! I am just getting ready to restart a weekly yoga session at work with one of my co-workers in a half hour!
    I loved that Kerry described her intentions. I know when I first started yoga I was the same way and set very broad intentions and now they are starting to get more specific. It seems every time I get the opportunity to come to the mat, I learn more; more about myself and more about yoga. Thanks so much for sharing.

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    1. Haha! I’m finding that the more I’m willing to listen and accept, the more certain ‘themes’ pop up in conversations, articles etc around me (this is not new – it’s been happening for years, I just didn’t embrace it as much).

      Kerry’s post was more than I bargained for. It’s a post I’ll be coming back to time and again to remind myself to make the most of my yoga practice, and my meditation.

      Things and Ideas have a way of coming to us when we need it most. I’m glad that this was one of them for you. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to do some yoga! 😉

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      1. Thank you for reading Amanda! I’m glad you can relate to intentions becoming more specific the more we practice making them. It seems that we gain the most from our practice when we do so.

        Zee, again, it was a pleasure…I’m thrilled that this came to you when you needed it! So amazing how those things happen. If you ask ,the universe provides. 🙂

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