By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed
Once again, the Christmas season is in full swing. This beautiful season brings with it a sense of lighthearted festiveness, as well as an underlying hope for the redemption of us and for our communities at large. According to many theologians, hope, faith and charity are the essential three virtues of Christmas. Christians believe that with the birth of Jesus of Nazareth any personal missteps they may have taken are rectified within the eyes of God. This deep sense of hopefulness keeps the heart and mind focused on the many blessings that surround us.
In terms of practicing Yoga or teaching classes, maintaining a strong sense of hopefulness is critical to making progress on this ancient spiritual path. Additionally, by having faith that a Yoga practice will bear fruit in our lives, most of us are much more willing to invest the time and energy necessary to truly make progress on this ancient path. As the founder of Ashtanga Yoga, Shri K. Patthabi Jois, so succinctly stated, "Do your practice and all is coming. " In other words, by having faith in the system of Yoga and applying yourself in a dedicated fashion to the practices, you will reap the fruits promised to you by the ancient sages.
However, it is not uncommon for many Yoga practitioners to become frustrated with their apparent lack of progress in their practice. If you find that you are at such a crossroads, by continuing to engage in a dedicated fashion to practicing on a regular basis, you will reap the fruits of this ancient method of creating and sustaining health, vitality and a strong connection with the divine. By connecting with the Christmas virtues of faith and hope in your practice and in the way that you teach Yoga classes, you will also harness the power of resiliency when you encounter obstacles along the way.
One technique for connecting with the power of faith on the mat is to allow you the time to periodically engage in a free flowing and intuitively inspired Yoga practice. In other words, by allowing yourself an hour on the Yoga mat in an unstructured fashion, when you allow the movement to arise from within your own being, you will cultivate a deep sense of faith in the inherent wisdom flowing through your own body and breath.
There are several well-known Yoga teachers who have modeled for us the beauty and wisdom of following an intuitive sense of how to engage in a Yoga practice or class. For example, Vande Scaravelli is a Yoga teacher who practiced a free form flow of Yoga postures, depending on her own intuitive wisdom of what her body needed at any given moment. In doing so, she was able to construct a practice that truly uplifted her life and kept her healthy and active into her early nineties. Erich Schiffman is another well-known Yoga teacher who espouses the beauty of an intuitive flow of Yoga postures.
Although I really enjoy practicing with a number of online Yoga teachers, sometimes the best way for me to really tune into my own intuitive sense of how I need to move my body is to put on some music that I love and simply commit to being on my mat for a set period of time. Most of the time, I allow myself a full hour to explore the unfurling of the asana practice from within my own being. When I allow myself this amount of time to practice Yoga, I usually feel that I have fully engaged in the practice.
Sometimes an intuitive Yoga session for me will consist mostly of Sun Salutations and standing postures. At other times, my body simple wants to rest for extended periods of time in restorative poses, such as Supported Balasana. By allowing myself the freedom and flexibility to practice Yoga in the way my body is specifically asking for on that day and within the framework of a dedicated hour "on the mat," I find that my practice is more deeply effective at releasing tension and revitalizing me than many of the preset Yoga sequences that I often follow.
Virginia Iversen, M.Ed, has been practicing and studying the art of Yoga for over twenty years. She lives in Woodstock, New York, where she works as a writer and an academic support specialist. She is currently accepting Yoga and health-related writing assignments and may be contacted at:firstname.lastname@example.org.