In the United States, we are obsessed with our bodies, so it’s no surprise that we often focus on the physical aspects of a yoga practice. However, according to Patanjali, yoga has very little to do with the body and everything to do with the mind.
He tells us, “Yoga is restraining the churnings of the mind” (Yoga Sutra 1.2). Furthermore, he explains that when we allow the mind to become still, we can discover the nature of our true Self. But how do we stop the mind from churning? By practicing concentration or awareness.
This practice is all about awareness. Feeling the sensation of your body being supported by the ground below you. Noticing what the breath feels like in your body. Bringing the breath and body together through movement. And, observing the effects of the practice on your mind, body, and breath.
The pace of this practice is quite slow. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to be “easy.” When I first began practicing, I preferred a fast pace. I wanted to know what the next pose was and I didn’t want to stay in poses that I didn’t like for too long. Eventually, I learned that Yoga isn’t about poses. The postures we practice are simply tools. The real work is done within as we learn to practice awareness and try to find stillness in our hearts and minds.
Our society encourages us to hustle, to always be moving, always be planning for what’s next, and to expect the unexpected. Slowing down the pace of our practice challenges those capitalist aphorisms. As my friend Zel recently reminded me, seemingly simple movement can remind us that we do have some control over our experience and our lives. More importantly, we make space for our nervous system to relax.