by CASSIE MCINTYRE
No matter where you are in your yoga journey you are taught to listen. Listening through mindfulness, creating a presence where you are, and looking deep within yourself. Learning to truly listen is also a skill that applies the core teachings of yoga into everyday life. In yoga, the practice asks you to redirect your mind to your inner world, to think about the big picture, and how it can help you change the quality of not only your world but also the quality of the relationships around you. Listening requires empathy and presence. Think about a time when a friend, partner, or family member wanted you to listen to them. Were you fully present in the moment? Did you find your mind wander off and not fully commit yourself to what they had to say? What happened the last time you were asked to listen?
Listening is intimately connected to feeling and if we can focus our minds into taking a moment to pause we can truly center ourselves to becoming more aware of what is happening around us. While the ultimate goal of yoga might be far off for many of us, it’s important to remember that the path of yoga itself is a spiritual journey. When we practice, it can be easy to get lost in the poses themselves and associate handstands with enlightenment but that is not the case. Understanding the true goal of yoga is to listen to your body and how to listen to it. When you’re on your mat in class, it’s important to only focus on yourself and your practice alone. Don’t worry about what the person next to you is doing. If you are distracted because the man or woman next to you is effortless gliding through the postures than you are not being mindful of why you came to class in the first place. You cannot really listen to your body or anyone or anything else unless you’re willing to let yourself be fully present in the moment and let those events impact you.
Listening during your practice happens as a multi-sensory experience. Think about a time when you last felt discomfort in a yoga pose. Why did it happen? Were you paying attention to what you were doing? Were you listening to your body? I’m not encouraging anyone to push too hard in any pose but the reality is sometimes certain postures trigger an intense physical and sometimes emotional pain. Do know if you ever feel any physical pain while you’re in a posture I recommend you calmly back out of it and find a modification for what you are doing. Again, all stemming from listening to your body and being present in the moment. Many “painful” yoga experiences don’t all have to stem from pushing a pose too hard but I do think they happen more so at the limit of what your body and mind can tolerate.
Without committing to your own inner listening, you might be blocking yourself from other opportunities. For example, if you register every discomfort (mental or physical) as pain you might find yourself stuck and unable to push past your challenges. In order to move forward sometimes we must endure difficult times and painful experiences. For me, listening is being able to hear the good and the bad with an equal state of awareness. It might be different for you and your journey but that’s the beauty of developing your own listening skills. Once you have developed the ability to truly listen to yourself will you be able to listen to others and the world around you. Some days you might find yourself breezing through your practice and other days you might find it hard to do the simplest of poses. What you can take away from this is a humbling experience and the ability to be changed by what you hear.
Overall, listen to your body and your mind. Take at least five minutes every day in yoga or just a simple meditation with no judgment and no goal other than to just sit and listen to yourself. If you find yourself judging or looking for something specific, listen to that too and see if you can understand the source of your discomfort and why these feelings are present. For your friends and loved ones, switch off the phones, close the apps, and drop whatever it is you are doing and become all ears. Direct your full focus to that person for at least five minutes each day or each time you see one another. Again, making small changes like this every day can not only change the quality of your relationships but the quality of your world. Listen to yourself and hear what is happening around you and most important of all get on your mat and practice.
Cassie McIntyre is a NASM certified personal trainer, yoga instructor, and nutritional coach.