I’ve kept a journal for as long as I can remember. Over the years, my journals¬†have held many ridiculous imaginings, fuelled some wild daydreams, and served as a place to sort through¬†my problems (big and small). My journal is the place where I cannot hide from my thoughts or feelings. It is where¬†my deepest truths fall out, even the ones that I’m¬†most afraid of facing. The act of writing gives me perspective, and allows me a space to explore both the most mundane and the most intense experiences.
But I have another journal of a different kind: my yoga mat. Each time I step onto the mat, my body tells a story. I become aware¬†of sensations in my muscles and joints that I may not notice (or choose to ignore!)¬†during the rhythm of a typical day. It’s easy to travel¬†through our daily¬†schedules without paying attention to¬†the effect each movement has on¬†the¬†physical body, not to mention the emotions we hold within. I can ignore a slight pain in the hip, some stiffness in the neck, or a nagging tug at the hamstrings as I go from one activity to another. But on the mat, as I begin to focus¬†on my breath, and the framework of the postures, I can’t avoid feeling imbalances or tensions that have arisen in my body.¬†And as I move through my yoga practice, I can consciously work towards bringing my physical (and mental) self back into, or closer to, alignment.
The days when I least feel like rolling out my mat are often the days when I need my yoga practice the most. Just as my journal provides a place where I can sift through my thoughts¬†and let the page hold them in plain view,¬†my yoga mat¬†is the space where I¬†can sort through what my body needs at any given time.
Do you use your yoga mat as your physical journal? What story does your body tell?
What Tree Pose Can Teach Us
Every pose in yoga has specific physical benefits. These benefits are what draw many people to yoga in the first place. But what I witness my clients learning — and what has kept me falling in love with my yoga practice over and over again in the last 19 years — are the many-layered lessons that each pose can offer us. Today I‚Äôm going to focus on one of my favourites: Tree pose.
Like many balancing poses, tree pose requires strength and flexibility. But neither of these can be achieved effectively without a sturdy foundation. It doesn‚Äôt matter how strong our legs or core are or how flexible our hips and upper bodies, if we are not grounded through the feet of our standing legs we will topple over. Likewise, in life: if we are not grounded or steady in who we are, no amount of strength or flexibility can prevent us from losing our balance.
Healthy trees strike the perfect equilibrium between foundation, strength and flexibility. Healthy trees grow deep roots. They are strong enough to withstand heavy gusts or gentle breezes, yet they have the flexibility to move and sway with the winds of all seasons. An unhealthy tree becomes rigid, inflexible, and will snap or crack when the wind blows too hard.
When we practice tree pose, the intention is to be a healthy tree, one that is rooted and strong but allows us to move gently with our breath. By staying grounded and working with our strength and flexibility, we can maintain balance. But if we focus too much on being still or rigid, that is when we are likely to fall out of the pose.
Tree pose as a metaphor for life?
When we develop a strong sense of who we are and what we stand for, we have a sturdy foundation. Once we have this foundation, we can develop the inner and outer strength to withstand both the calm and stormy days, and the flexibility to move and sway with the changing nature of our lives.