I know many "do" yoga for the exercise or stretching - physical aspects, however, I invite you to engage your mental and emotional aspects the next time you "do" yoga. Begin with those first few breaths, really use them to drop everything from your mind. You don't need to think about your shopping list, or the grade you (or your child) made on their test, or what a disaster your house will be in when you get home. For the next hour, all you need to focus on is YOU.
As you move into the poses, allow yourself time to get there and just feel it. What is going on in the body, in the mind? Hopefully, the mind is quiet and you are fully engaged in the body. Yes, physically adjust the body and then breathe and check in fingers to toes; ask What am I feeling and Where do I feel it? The poses open up different energy centers in the body, allowing for awareness in each of those centers can clue you in to the state of your system. Notice the breath, are you holding it, it is rapid, is it smooth and even?
Let's pretend you are in Warrior Two - hips are open, shoulders are open, head is turned, arms are reaching out. What are you feeling in the body right now? This question allows you to be present and more connected to yourself. Maybe your throat feels tight or you feel squished down. That's great because you are now aware and you can begin to transform, inside and out. As you firmly press your feet through the floor and allow the heart to float to the sky, lengthening the torso; feel it in the body, feel how it shifts. Maybe now you feel strong and powerful. Why? Because you opened up that personal power center in your core and you grounded into the earth. If the throat feels constricted, I invite you to bring your breath there, really make a sound in the throat as you exhale; squeeze the throat on the exhale and relax on the inhale.
Now, in this same pose, where is your breath? When you first get into it maybe the breath is stuck in the belly or the throat. As you hold the asana, do you hold your breath or does it become rapid and jagged? We want to flow with the breath, use the breath to allow a further opening into the pose. So, once you physically have opened up the core and throat begin to focus more on the breath. Breathe up from the earth to the heart and exhale from the heart out of the head. Feel the lengthening in the body and the calmness of the mind and muscles as you do this.
Hopefully, yoga doesn't end for you when you get off the mat. These same practices you did in Warrior II can easily be translated into your life. In that moment on the mat, you allowed yourself to be present with the body and breath, creating calmness and strength in the mind and body. Let's say you get home and the house is a mess. First, take a moment to notice what you are feeling and where you are feeling it. Secondly, what is happening with the breath right now? Now, breathe through the body up and down until the breath becomes smooth, even and flowing throughout the entire system. Then, decide what to do and choose to go about it happily (or not).
Once you begin to be present in each moment, the world takes on a different color, smell and feel. You notice the squirrels playing in your backyard and you enjoy it. The spilling of juice on the floor isn't such a big deal, washing dishes in the sink becomes an enjoyable meditation. So, if you notice your mind wondering, your stomach hurting, your list growing, just take a moment to check in with your body and breath. Then breathe and know it is all perfect, right now.