Sometimes I feel like everything is at high-speed. There’s this pressure to get things done quicker, more efficiently, and to keep moving from one task to the next without even a pause. Every day is a constant rush in our fast-paced society. I’m non-stop moving from the moment I wake up and rush to the catch the bus to writing news stories at my internship by an earlier and earlier deadline each day to coming home, making dinner, and finishing all of my editing work until my head hits the pillow and then suddenly it’s a new day again! Life feels so fast that even when I try to slow down with yoga, I find myself feeling like I’m beating the clock. I’m squeezing in more yoga poses to do in an hour, and moving, while fluidly, at a quicker pace. The rush doesn’t benefit me as I quickly lose sight of the intention I made for my yoga practice that day, and fall away from that meditative and calming nature yoga brings.
My former (and favorite by far) yoga teacher would always tell the class to be in “honey-time.” She wanted us to move like we were wading through a thick mass of honey, combing through the stickiness slowly and sweetly. Yoga is about cultivating peace and consciousness, but if you’re like me and going through the movements quickly without much thought, you’re losing the most essential foundation of yoga. Practicing yoga slowly forces you to grow patience. You are not stuck in the fast world that is our daily reality, but calming your energies, quieting your mind, and learning to do things slowly instead of moving in a rush to get to the next thing faster. What I’ve realized is I’m constantly moving fast not because of all of my tasks, but because I am always looking ahead, focusing on what’s upcoming rather than staying in the present.
Below is a yoga sequence I’ve created to encourage mindfulness and patience. Remember to do these poses in honey-time, moving slowly and holding them for longer.
Optionally, try drinking a calming herbal tea, such as passionflower or chamomile. Light incense that has soothing properties such as lavender or jasmine.
Before beginning the asana part of your practice, sit cross-legged with hands resting on knees. Close your eyes and begin taking full, slow breaths in and out, filling your belly with air and gently releasing it. Quiet your mind by tuning into your breath. Only focus on the rhythm of your breath, letting anything that arises in your mind and distracts you from the present moment out by coming back to your breath. Set an intention for your practice and for the day. After a few moments of breath (no rush!) begin the sequence.
Gently come up onto hands and knees for cat and cow. Breathe in and lift your head and chest forward, with your belly dropping down. Breathe out and curve your back upward into cat. Repeat this pose 10 times.
Press up into downward-facing dog, sending your hips back. Switch off pressing each heel down onto the floor. Rest here for five breaths.
Move your feet forward a little and press your forearms to the ground to come into dolphin pose. Optionally, fold your hands together and place at the back of your head. Stay here for five breaths. And then release into child’s pose. Place your arms behind to allow them to rest. Rest here for 10 breaths.
Come up from child’s pose into downward-facing dog and then transition into a vinyasa (downward-facing dog, plank, chaturanga dandasana and upward dog or cobra). Remember to move through this sequence slowly, giving equal attention to each pose.
From upward dog or cobra come back into downward-facing dog, rest here for a few breaths and then step your feet forward into standing forward bend. Bend your knees with hands on the floor, behind your calves, or clasping your elbows. Lift your chest forward and look up, straightening your legs then fold over again and slowly raise your torso up, feeling each vertebrae lift. Move through this slowly to get the full effect. Lift your head last.
Extend your arms out to your sides with eyes closed coming into mountain pose. Quietly reflect on how you feel so far during your practice. Feel yourself present in this moment and hold onto that mindfulness.
Lift one leg up onto the inside of your thigh for tree pose. Begin with your hands in Anjali Mudra http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/484 (prayer hands over heart) then lift them like tree branches up toward the sky. Stay here for 10 breaths.
From tree pose with hands in Anjali mudra, extend the leg lifted back and lean your torso forward until your body is in a table top position as you stand on one leg for Warrior III. Make sure you are focusing on your core here to help with balance. When you have found your balance, slowly lengthen out your arms in front of you.
Lean your body a little more forward sending your leg straight up and your hands to the floor. Breathe in and then breathe out as you release your lifted leg to the floor. Rise back up to standing and repeat tree pose and warrior III on other side.
When you are back to standing, bend your knees and come into chair pose, tucking your bum down (not out) and lifting your arms straight up. Hold here for five breaths.
Release and swan dive down into standing forward bend and then take another vinyasa. Release into child’s pose or pigeon pose if your hips need a little opening. For pigeon, come up onto all fours and move your right knee forward toward your right hand. . Make sure your right foot is flexed and your hips are square. Slowly fold over and place your forearms are on the ground. Fold your chest over the floor if comfortable. Stay here with eyes closed for 10 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Turn your body over to lie on your back for savasana. Have your eyes closed and reflect on how your body feels. Breathe in to each body part starting from your toes and reaching up to the crown of your head. Come back into your intention as you clear your mind with your breath. Allow yourself to stay in savasana for as long as necessary. Don’t focus on the fact that you are nearing the end of your practice and what the next task to tackle is. Instead guide yourself deeper into meditation, deeper into the present moment.
Photo: Jessica Renae