Imagine this: you wake up and realize your alarm didn’t go off. You can make it to your job on time if you hurry hurry hurry. You get dressed as quickly as you can, run a brush through your hair, throw on some shoes, and run out the door. But, as you turn onto a major street, there is a traffic jam. You are at a dead stop. People are screaming out of their windows, honking their horns. You realize you are holding your breath and your stomach is in knots. You tell yourself that there is nothing you can do but you still feel that anxiety start to creep up and you just know your whole day is shot. All you want to do is get it over with and get back into bed.
Why do we feel this way sometimes? We know deep down that this too shall pass, and that it isn’t that big of a deal, but the whole process wears us out before we even really start the day. This is a major sign that your spirit is starved.
What Do I Mean by Spirit?
There are many terms that can be used to describe that essence within us that feels bigger than all the other parts. Some people call it their Soul, their inner truth, Higher Self, True Self, God, The Divine, The Universe, and so many more. They are all correct. We can usually all agree that there is something beyond the physical and mental components of our being. My favorite analogy is that we are all waves, we rise and feel like we exist as one thing, but we are never NOT the ocean, rising out of it and returning to it again and again. That thing within us that we call a soul or our spirit, that’s really our connection to the ocean.
How Do We Lose Touch With Our Spirit?
We now live in a world that offers us so many distractions, stressors, and ways to numb ourselves when the stress becomes too intense that it becomes very easy to ignore that deeper space that offers truth and contentment and instead reach for a glass of wine and the tv remote. But when we don’t check in with ourselves regularly, we start to feel lost, unfocused, overwhelmed, lonely even around others, anxious, and more.
So many times in the past, I would reward myself for daily wins with sugar and fried foods and alcohol. These are the same things I would use to console myself on days where I felt I had failed or was poorly treated. I’m not pushing a certain nutrition agenda here (I can’t say I’m perfect in my eating habits anyway), I’m just sharing the ways I personally would numb out and ignore the nagging feeling that there was something I could do that would be more rewarding and restorative to my spirit than mindlessly staring at a tv screen while I downed as many $2.25 drink specials I could because I hated my job. But the next day, because I was dehydrated and already exhausted, my spirit couldn’t handle the stress of my daily tasks, which would make me feel even worse, and I would want to hit that bar even earlier in the day.
How Does Yoga Restore the Connection To Spirit?
The system of yoga offers a different approach to dealing with stress and suffering. A person who practices yoga is seeking truth within rather than answers from without.
But how? By moving our body, our mind gets quiet. And when the mind is quiet, we can hear the ocean (or Universe/God/Divine/etc.) speaking to us. When we can hear the truth that is always deep within us, we can make better choices.
And the more we listen, the more robust and resilient our spirit becomes. We are not disturbed by the traffic jam nor are we overwhelmed by a job we hate. When our spirit is nourished and hearty, we can make big decisions like quitting that crappy job and going back to school.
But it all starts with being willing to listen. Sometimes for a long time. And we can, when our bodies are less painful and achy and our mind is quiet.
Try These Yoga Poses to Connect with Your Spirit
Sitting on your mat, or on a pad or blanket, cross your legs in any way that feels comfortable for you. Maybe one foot in front of the other, or one leg on top of the other. Palms up or down as you rest your hands on your knees or thighs. Sit here as you feel your breath simply going in and going out of the body, feeling the body expand and relax as you breathe. 10-ish breaths.
From a tabletop position (shoulders over wrists and hips over knees), gently send the hips back towards the heels as you reach the hands forward and bow your head. Breathing easily here, maybe rolling your head side to side to massage your forehead. Stay here for 3-5 breaths.
Down Dog Pose
Returning to tabletop pose, turn the toes under, then exhale as you send your hips up and back. Weight is evenly distributed through all 10 fingers. The crease of the elbows are turned towards the ears, the shoulders are softened down the back of the rib cage, there is lots of space between ears and shoulders. The knees are softly bent to start, then lengthen the legs but don't lock out the knees. The heels reach towards the mat. Stay here for about 5 breaths then return to tabletop or move onto the next pose.
From down dog, gently bring the right foot forward into a low lunge, then walk the right foot over to the left. When it feels right, lower the hips down, coming into this pose gently. You can lift the heart as you inhale and bow the torso forward as you exhale, using your hands to support you or coming down onto forearms or all the way down to rest your forehead on the mat. Stay here for 5-7 breaths if it feels good. After that, gently begin to make your way back to down dog and repeat on the other side.
When you are done moving your body, we take time to still our mind. Find your way onto your mat, laying on your back. Toes turned outward, palms turned up. Release all effort. Allow the earth to hold you as you turn your attention inward. Breath deeply and follow the breath as it goes in and goes out. As you get still and get quiet, you can then come into your center, and glimpse at the truth that is your SELF. Stay here as long as you like, breathing and coming into your center. When you feel ready, come back by gently reintroducing small movements that feel good until you can make your way back to an easy seated position.
Other Ways to Nourish Your Spirit
There are lots of ways to tap into that inner connection to everything else (OH! Like, the Force!) You can meditate. You can walk in nature. You can draw/paint/knit/sew/anything that draws creativity from you that allows your mind to be still as you do it. Maybe that’s singing or dancing for you. It’s definitely dancing for me.
Also, being mindful as you go about your day can nourish the soul. Mindfully making a cup of tea, hugging a loved one, petting your cat or dog. But in this, I feel I must stress, mindfulness is the key. Petting your cat while watching the news will not be as restorative as doing so in silence, with your full attention on the action.
Want more tips and advice on how to use yoga to live with more self-awareness and self-acceptance?
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