Habits: acquired behavior patterns that become (almost) involuntary; a customary practice. They can serve us well in our yoga and meditation practices: following the same path every day smooths a familiar groove towards (almost) guaranteed results. In that familiarity we find comfort, especially when confronted with challenging situations.
Our yoga and meditation practices also encourage us to break away from habitual thought patterns, emotional reactions and verbal responses. It can be a fine edge to traverse ~ using habits to break habits. I have written in the past how my ashtanga yoga practice, through its familiar routine, brought me deeply into self-examination. It was a practice that strengthened my body, coaxed open my heart, and supported me when the sh*t hit the proverbial fan. I couldn’t sustain the physical practice after the birth of my 4th child ~ my shoulders and my lower back were on the road to over-loading and over-use.
An ‘improviser’ by nature, I’ve drawn threads from many traditions and teachers into how I practice and teach yoga and meditation. Amongst the ones most vital and alive in my current explorations are those based on the science of fascial research. One of the key recommendations these scientists are making is that we ‘vary the vectors’ of our physical movements. In other words, yogis, shake it up.
Insert a ‘Clock Face’ or some other kind of visual mandala into your asana practice: draw a wide circle around your hips and another around your shoulders. A circle of hours can hover above your head, and one can cast a wide circle around where you stand. Find ways to move your arms and your legs to connect with more ‘hours’. Let your clock tilt off its axis. Imagine bringing a greater range of motion to the shoulders and hips as your inner belly dancer invites your habit-loving yogi onto the dance floor. Explore movement ‘off-center’; slowly, with sensitivity and curiosity. Visual synovial fluid being produced in your joints and let that lubricative fluidity enhance a joy of movement throughout your entire body system.
(I created this mandala of ovaries and fallopian tubes during a recent workshop I took. I needed SOMETHING to jumpstart my creativity~ there was a veritable logjam of ideas in my brain and in their clamor for getting to the head of the line, they had succeeded in getting themselves terrifically stuck. Mandalas now replace the image of a black and white clock face when I enter my practice space and prepare to move.)