Monday, January 30, 2017

Living a Yoga Life - Being Present

It took me a long time to understand that one can practice elements of yoga off the mat. It's not just about exercising and breathing for an hour, and then lying down on the mat for a nap (although that's pretty awesome). I'm learning to implement elements of yoga in my everyday life, and to help others understand what it means to live a yoga lifestyle, I'll share an experience I had in the last couple of weeks.

For my Yoga IV class, I get to read the text, Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness by Erich Schiffmann (affiliate). In the beginning of chapter one, there's a line that reads, "When you are not wholehearted, when you'd rather be someplace other than where you are, parts of you shut down and begin not to participate." In application to my regular life, I noted that on the days I'm home with Lincoln, without the interruption of work, school, or other obligations, I have a hard time sitting with him playing for 12 hours. It's a loooooong day. We butt heads and I don't get a moment's peace. I sit on the floor with him and just wish away the time until he goes to bed. I love him, and I'm so grateful to be his mom and have so much time with him, but playing with a two-year-old all day is sometimes super boring and exhausting.

So I experimented with something after reading this chapter from Schiffman. I sat with Lincoln and told him a timer would sound in a little while (usually 20-30 minute increments). When we heard it, I'd take a break from playing with him. My break might consist of taking a shower, brushing my teeth, doing homework, working from home, or just sitting on the couch and not allowing myself to be bossed around for a few minutes. We kept it up for most of the morning, and by afternoon Lincoln could no longer handle the timer dictating our interactions (which is understandable since he's two). Giving myself those guidelines helped me be present during the time I was spending with my son. It helped knowing we were putting limits on how much time we'd be together, and how much time I'd have "on my own" (which I put in quotes because there were times I was trying to work and he'd stand at my side repeatedly asking when the timer would beep so we'd play together again).

Being present in the moment can be difficult for me. There's so much going on in my head; school and work assignments, church responsibilities, ideas for the yoga community I'm nurturing, family responsibilities and so much more. I have lists and a planner and notifications in my phone to remind me of all the things I aspire to do in a day... and I get distracted by those tasks looming before me. That affects the quality of my attention for the task I'm actually involved in.

So this little exercise gave me an opportunity to be present. To forget, for twenty minutes at a time, about what was next on my list. I hope it will continue to work in some form for me, and that perhaps the transitions will be more organic in the future (i.e. I won't need a timer to tell me to stop and move on to the next thing).

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