The image many people have of a yoga practitioner is someone sitting serenely in lotus, calm and unruffled. But most of us are less than perfect some of the time, and I will say now that sometimes I get a bit crabby or snappy when packing to leave for a journey or holiday. Every time I think “Right, I’ll remain calm, not snap, get the packing done in a relaxed manner” but somehow I also start getting stroppy at the end! And, knowing that I’m getting stroppy makes it worse because I know I should be calm and serene!
Last week I was packing and leaving with my partner for a trip to Scotland and up to the last 10 minutes had been doing well, then I slipped into my usual hurried, impatient mode. Naturally we arrived at the station with plenty of time to spare. The snappiness hadn’t made us quicker! What I should have done instead of getting fraught and curt (there’s SO many words for these sorts of feelings it seems!) was to just sit on the sofa and take some deep breaths or practice a pranayama technique.
Ones that are particularly good for stress or anxiety are ones that extend the exhale, or slow the rhythm of the breathing down. So a simple ratio breathing technique could be to count the inhale and the exhale until you feel comfortable with what your normal breathing rhythm is, then aim to extend the exhale by half again. So if your normal inhale lasts for a count of 4 and the exhale is also 4, then your breath ratio would be 4:4 (the ratio of 1:1). If you extend the exhale by half its length again it would be 4:6 (or 1:1.5).
I needed the deep breathing later when we missed our connection due to our train becoming delayed, and again when we were in danger of missing another connection! Lots of cliches kept coming into my head such as “What will be will be” or “Patience is a virtue, virtue is a grace, Grace is a little girl who wouldn’t wash her face”. (Anyone know the origin of that saying?)
Patience, and acceptance of a situation, can be applied to more than just daily life. We can also bring these qualities into our yoga practice. For example, sometimes we could be more patient going into, or coming out of, an asana posture, taking time instead or rushing the movement – sometimes the journey is as important as the destination.
We could be more patient whilst in a posture, calmly waiting for our body to settle into it instead of forcing it, pushing to reach our toes or whatever. We can be patient with physical niggles or injuries, accepting that we can’t do some postures to our previous capability, and wait for time to heal the body. For example, I have a little niggle in one of my hamstrings so I am trying to not go as far as I usually go in standing wide leg forward bends, but sometimes it’s hard to hold off when you know you can usually go further.
Patience can be challenging – it’s a lot easier to allow our habits to happen than to deliberately change our behaviour for the better.
Some of the classic and modern texts on yoga emphasise that yoga is a life-long journey, we don’t have to learn it all or do it all now. If we’re patient we can enjoy the journey and the destination.