MANDY’S BLOG: More than pretty shapes – the origins of Asana

These days, by and large, we celebrate the physical benefits of yoga – and there are many! Hatha (body-focused) yoga is most popular in the western world and offers a ton of gorgeous postures, or asanas, for our personal betterment or to share with the world.

Instagram and Pinterest offer us so many tutorials and how-tos for creating that perfect yoga shape. In our pursuit of the next beautiful posture, it can be easy to lose sight of the “why.” Why are we doing the asanas we’re doing?

Maybe the reason is fully physical. We have tight hamstrings, so we sink into a deep wide-legged forward fold. Our shoulders are sore, so we play in Puppy Pose.

I love the physical benefits of my practice. I got into yoga in middle school to give myself a mode of exercise that wasn’t too hard on my tender muscles and fragile joints. But sometimes I start to itch for something else. A bigger reason. An older one.

In the Sanskrit, Asana means “seat.” It refers to the postures the ancient yogis would adopt to facilitate their meditation. Every asana they practiced was designed to align the energy in their bodies and get their minds into the proper state for the type of meditation they wanted to practice.

Nowadays the little meditation I do in each asana has more to do with getting into and out of the postures than getting out of my mind and into my higher Spirit. I’d like to change that. I’d like to do more Dharana (single-pointed focus meditation) than it takes to stay balanced in Tree Pose and more Dyana (detachment from the mundane) than I find in a deep, yummy Yoga Nidra session.

I still love yoga for its physical benefits and I don’t see anything wrong with practicing Hatha yoga for that reason! My practice can serve more than one purpose, and yoga is, at its core, what I need it to be.

But as I lever my way into the balance poses, or twist myself into the more pretzel-y ones, I want to reconnect with the ancient yogis who, millennia before me, knew that meditation and growth starts with the asana.

Asana is only the third limb of the tree of yoga for a reason, after all.

SPOONIE YOGIS: Your throat chakra wants you to cool it on the oversharing

Spoonie Yoga Throat ChakraI believe that one of the universal needs of human beings is to be heard and understood – ESPECIALLY for Spoonie Yogis, who know that being seen is a vital part of being whole.

Language and communication evolved for a reason, and being able to speak our truth and have people hear, accept, and validate it is one of the most powerful things we can experience.

The lore around Vishuddha (our truth-telling throat chakra) tells the story of Lord Shiva, who drank the poison of the world, and in his throat, turned it to nectar. That’s what our truth can be – the transmuting of something awful into something nourishing and powerful. But sometimes when Spoonie Yogis get out of balance, that positive, beautiful sharing turns into stressed-out oversharing, which can begin to push people away rather than pulling them in, and perpetuate the feelings of loneliness and rejection Spoonies already face.

Vulnerability is based on mutuality and requires boundaries and trust. It’s not oversharing, it’s not purging, it’s not indiscriminate disclosure, and it’s not celebrity-style social media information dumps. Vulnerability is about sharing our feelings and our experiences with people who have earned the right to hear them. Being vulnerable and open is mutual and an integral part of the trust-building process.

― Brené BrownDaring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

Here are a few signs that your truth-telling throat chakra is spinning a little bit out of control, and what you can do to more mindfully and deliberately share your truth with those who deserve to hear it.

You might be oversharing if:

People withdraw or feel uncomfortable when you share your truth

As with most things, this one has exceptions and nuance, because sometimes people need to hear things that make them feel uncomfortable. But if every time you share your story, secret, or opinion, someone in your sphere shrinks away from you, it might be that you’re getting a little too personal with people who are not ready to see that much of you.

How to modify:

Be stingier about who you let hear your truth

I know this sounds counter intuitive to the purpose of Vishuddha, but sometimes as Spoonies we can accidentally let our inner circle get too big and need to rein it in again.

Pick one or two close friends to vent to on the daily, instead of sharing with everyone you come across. Those truth-telling sessions will be more meaningful and more cathartic. You also run less risk of judgement or rejection.

You might be oversharing if:

You notice your spoonie experience spilling into every aspect of your social media presence

This one is tough. We share about our lives everywhere, because we experience our struggles all day, every day. We’re also hounded by people who would “rather not hear about it” so much (and Spoonie Yogis know how hurtful/selfish that perspective is.) In reclaiming our space in the rest of the world, we overcompensate by putting our experiences on every social platform we have, in every post we make.

How to modify:

Create a social media presence specific to your experience

It feels impossible to compartmentalize an experience that pervades every part of your life. Believe me, I know it’s a hard thing to put pain and illness on the back burner when you’re in the midst of it 24/7. But creating a Pinterest board, a separate Instagram, or a new Twitter account for your spoonie experiences not only gets them out of your head in a real way, it invites other Spoonie Yogis to join your community by allowing you to be totally honest and real in a safe space you control.

And don’t forget to post on your other, generalized social media about other things! Even when it feels like your illness, disability, or pain is 100% of your life, I promise you it isn’t. Showcase the whole you.

You might be oversharing if:

You begin to feel like you’re educating everyone in your life

People rarely study things that don’t impact them firsthand. When I overshare with people who aren’t in my support circle, I find myself answering the same questions over and over.

“Isn’t Celiac just tummy troubles?” Well, no…

“Why do you use a cane sometimes but not other times?” It’s kind of complicated…

“What do you mean you’re getting diagnosed again?” It’s a long process…

Answering the same basic questions ad nausea can feel overwhelming.

How to modify:

Ask your inner circle to really research your illness

The day my boyfriend did the legwork to educate himself on my illness, our whole relationship changed. He saw me differently, understood my struggles better, and knew how to converse with me about my symptoms. I started to feel seen and heard. It would be difficult to ask the same of every person I meet and share with, but my inner circle peeps know what’s up.

You deserve to tell your story. You deserve to share your experiences. With a smaller inner circle of dedicated, educated supporters and a way to invite the wider world into your community, that sharing can be easy, productive, and super cathartic.

Now go turn that poison into nectar, you incredible Spoonie!


HOME YOGIS: Start Your Mindfulness Practice in 1 Minute Flat

Mindfulness is one of the most valuable tools in the yogi’s toolbox. Mindfulness meditation can lower anxiety, sharpen decision making, and even help you sleep better! One minute of mindfulness here and there throughout your day can make a world of difference in your life.

And the best news? One minute is all you need to get started!

Whether you’re a busy parent, a busy entrepreneur, a busy teacher, or just busy, you can spare one minute, right? Easy Peasy. Here’s how to practice one minute mindfulness.

Pick a “mindfulness trigger” to remind you to practice.

Mine is my car. I drive at least once a day, so using my car as my trigger ensures I get my mindfulness practice once a day. When I park my car, I turn off the ignition, put both hands on the steering wheel. That’s my moment to begin my practice, and after a few rounds of this, it became an easy habit.

If you don’t drive enough to borrow my trigger, maybe you can use the shower, brushing your teeth, loading the dishwasher, or taking a daily medication as your trigger. Anything you do habitually will work!

Hit “pause” on your mental to-do list.

This is often the hardest – but most crucial – part of mindfulness for most people. It’s also the very reason we practice it! Mindfulness gives us the space to set aside our fast-paced mental load and just be for a few wonderful moments. And like anything else in Yoga, it’s a practice, so don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t come naturally right away!

Mindfulness depends on our ability to set aside the to-do list, the worries, the regrets, and the hopes of the day and focus fully on the present moment. Click To Tweet

Focus on what you feel.

Starting from your feet upward, notice every physical sensation in your body. Feel your feet on the floor, your pants on your legs, your shirt on your shoulders, your hair on your neck. Tune into the little sensations we train ourselves to tune out, like the weight of your watch on your wrist or your glasses on your nose. It’s okay if all this noticing makes you feel a little itchy – that’s a feeling to notice too!

Take five to seven full breaths.

Breathe first into the lowest part of your belly, and let it balloon out like the happy Laughing Buddha. Give your stomach all the space it wants! Then let your breath fill the middle and finally the top of your lungs. Feel a little stretch across your collarbone as you finish your inhale.

To exhale, reverse your path. Exhale the breath at the top of your lungs first, then the middle, then lastly the air from the lowest part of your belly. Feel your pelvic floor muscles engage as you expel every bit of breath and pause for a beat before beginning your next breath.

Express gratitude.

As you near the end of your one minute mindfulness practice, take a second to feel gratitude for what you have and who you are. Thank yourself for expressing care by practicing your one minute mindfulness. You’re amazing. Your body and mind will be so much healthier for this one minute of love.