“In an age of constant acceleration, nothing can be more exhilarating than going slow. In an age of constant distraction, nothing is so luxurious as paying attention. In an age of constant movement, nothing is so urgent as sitting still.” – Pico Iyer
Have you ever watched a well-balanced child’s spinning top, spinning so fast that it doesn’t seem to be spinning at all? It’s effortless and perfect. But it’s not like this because it’s not moving, it’s like this because it’s moving at top speed.
In the same way, stillness doesn’t lack energy, life or movement; it’s a dynamic state that happens whenever there is unconstrained movement, harmony, balance and you’re totally present in the moment.
For most of us for most of the time, our lives are like an unbalanced spinning top; we tip to the side, momentarily get back to the centre and then whoops, we’re off to the other side. We’re not balanced and centred, we’re spinning here, there and everywhere and we don’t feel as joyful or as alive as we’d like to.
And that’s never more evident than at this time of the year. As we move towards the Winter Solstice and the darkest and coldest days of the year, we naturally want to ‘hibernate’ and focus on inner reflection, however this is at odds with the outside world that is calling for more work and more action as we move towards Christmas.
Stillness is actually a physical state, and probably a higher energy state than most of us are used to. And this is because we’re almost never unconstrained about anything; part of us is usually somewhere else; we’re spinning in opposite directions at the same time; there’s conflict with what we’re doing; we’re never totally here, now.
Have you noticed this in yourself? Imagine the scenario. You’re at your weekly Yoga class performing the sequence that your teacher has just run through with you, but while you appear to be participating, you’re actually thinking about what you’ve got to do when you get home, planning what you’ll say to your awkward colleague when you’re back in the office in the morning… Sound familiar?
But when you move into stillness, that is give your undivided attention to you, you can experience a deep connection, peace and calmness while experiencing the feeling of being more balanced, rejuvenated and re-energised.
Yoga is one way you can move into stillness, rediscovering who you are, becoming more balanced and centred and developing enhanced perspective and self-awareness as you experience a rebirth as yourself and often unexpected and profound inner contentment.
Everything about you – your thoughts, actions and relationships – and how you feel about yourself affect your quality of life and how you interpret and respond to what’s happening to you and around you each day.
Using Yoga to discover more about yourself, or in fact rediscover yourself if you’ve lost direction, can help you to bring about changes to your thoughts, feelings and emotions as well as your perspective of and response to life events so you can look at things past, present and future from a different angle and with more awareness and clarity and less fear, worry and anxiety.
Many of us have never known ourselves. It’s not something we are ever encouraged to do in our society. Messages about ourselves come from all quarters from our earliest childhood. Mum says you’re a good girl, but Dad says you’re a bad girl, so you’re good and bad at the same time – that’s confusing, how can that be? At school, we’re told we could study harder, we could run faster, we could try harder, we could speak clearer… so we’re never good enough. And the same carries on in the workplace and home – not pretty enough, not a good enough cook, not a good enough mother. Always the comparison with other people, with external measures, so it’s hardly surprising that many of us feel guilty, ashamed, embarrassed or confused about who we really are.
“Yoga is a way of moving into stillness in order to experience the truth of who we are.” – Erich Schiffman
And the more Somatic, Restorative and Yin styles of Yoga are perfect vehicles for doing this.
These forms of Yoga offer physical ease and mental calmness by allowing the body to ‘switch off’ the fight or fight mode of the sympathetic nervous system and revert to parasympathetic mode. So, the slower more mindful styles of Yoga can be healing and nourishing, grounding, replenishing, calming and revitalising.
A carefully crafted Hatha or Slow Flow Yoga class practiced at a steady slow rhythm and pace synchronised with the breath can also bring about this inner stillness; it’s a moving meditation, meditation in action.
To be honest any movement or dance practice that is created through deep connection to the body and the breath and that emerges from inside of you as a form of self expression can be another way of moving into the stillness inside of you, the deep authentic core of you, and often this movement will naturally lead you into stillness at the end. This can be useful when the mind can’t rest easily; the body can ease its tension to then allow both mind and body to rest.
In these more passive and receptive styles of Yoga and movement expression, you can vary your focus, shifting from movement to holding. In Yin and Restorative Yoga, you are holding the poses for longer than you would normally, and in Yin Yoga you are relaxing into the stretch, finding the place between comfort and challenge. In Restorative Yoga, again you are given time and space to explore a pose, but within a container of comfort and support the stretch element is removed. The time in the pose is more important than the intensity – even in Restorative Yoga where there is no stretch as there are other barriers to overcome such as thoughts or your awareness being brought to strong sensations as the body has the opportunity in this time and space to shine a light on areas that might be in need of your focus and attention. Finding your edge within the pose, your barriers, and then easing off while noticing and breathing into the sensations within your body.
Each pose is your opportunity to pause, observe what’s happening in your body, notice your emotions and fully experience any sensations within your body and how your body responds in that precise moment, connecting deeply through your breath and checking in with yourself before pausing and saying hello to the world again.
Staying for a while in each pose creates space for anything that wants to come up to come up – feelings of happiness, sadness, anxiety, discomfort… and anything that you habitually suppress in your busy daily schedule. It’s time for it to all come out of the shadows, not so you can identify it or get caught up in the stories, but just so you can observe it, release it and let it go… but first you have to let it be, just as it is and be present with it. It’s a way of deeply connecting to you that then gives you an opportunity to process what needs to be processed, helping to clear your mind of those often unconscious thoughts and giving yourself the opportunity to work through the blockages they have caused in your body.
And how wonderful is that?
If you would like to take some time out of the busyness of this time of year to follow your body’s natural rhythm in slowing down while making space to delve deeply within yourself, sinking deeper into your body and experiencing a meditation in action as you notice every part of your journey into and out of the poses, then join me for my Winter Stillness Workshop on Sunday 3 December at Yoga Kula, Leeds.
Contact me for more information or to book your place.
However, if you can’t come along to my workshop here are four simple ways that you can move into stillness:
I specialise in working with women one to one and enjoy being part of their journey of reconnection and self-discovery. I support women to find more balance and harmony in their lives by deepening their inner connection to their own body’s needs, helping them cope pre-conception, with fertility issues, prenatally, postnatally or during times of transition, grief or loss and helping alleviate the symptoms of menstruation, perimenopause or menopause.
If you feel that you would benefit from some nurturing allwoman support, please get in touch.
I use the incredible healing, calming, strengthening and restorative power of yoga to help you find the balance you need, no matter what stage of life you’re at. I couple this with Mizan massage, belly binding, birth preparation and doula services to support you as needed.