Catherine Gallagher, Yoga teacher passionate about the benefits of yoga, wellness and healing, and creator of Yoga ‘Zen do’ event packages – find out more at https://www.facebook.com/yogawithcatherine/ or on Instagram @yoga.with.catherine.
“Action is movement with intelligence. The world is filled with movement. What the world needs is more conscious movement, more action.”
This quote by the foremost yoga teacher BKS Iyengar rings true to me right now. Having recently left my corporate job to be a yoga teacher and run my yoga events business full time, I need to take more conscious choices in guiding my path in the right direction. Being conscious in every action we take is no easy task! The amount of times my mind wanders – I’m doing one thing but my mind is running through a million other things taking me away from what I’m doing at that moment in time… before I know it, the moment has passed me by. I’m sure you can relate to this!
So, what does it mean to be conscious and how can we achieve it?
Being aware of one’s surroundings and having knowledge about what is going on at any one time is all enveloped in the term ‘consciousness’. This might sound a bit deep and heavy but let’s bring this back to the basics. It can be as simple as not taking things for granted in the West like having central heating, a clean state-of-the-art yoga studio to practice in and, of course, clean ready-to-drink water literally on tap! Consciously being grateful for these incredible but often termed ‘simple’ things in life can lead us to more conscious movement and more action. For example, when you have a drink – enjoy the drink and feel it entering your body, nourishing you and ultimately providing you with life.
It’s life that distinguishes us from non-conscious objects. The Bhagavad Gita explains “The sun alone illuminates all this universe, so does the living entity, one within the body, illuminate the entire body by consciousness.” Chapter 13, Verse 34 It’s our energy and life force or ‘prana’ that makes us conscious as human beings and distinguished from non-living objects. This life force is the true essence of what we really are, not a combination of matter.
In yoga, we learn that it’s not about caring what the asana (‘seats’ or ‘postures’) ooks like, it’s about how we feel while we are moving this way. One teacher I practice with says that it’s usually just as we are coming out of an asana that we are beginning to actually enter it.
We can stand there in a class throwing some shapes and being good gymnasts but what about being conscious and aware of what we are actually doing and how our body feels and responds to these ancient movements? Some conscious actions we can take to bring us to the present are to notice the breath in and out of the nostrils during the inhale and exhale. The points of contact with the mat – the heels pressing down and the fingers nice and spread out with the fingertips gripping the mat. Our heartbeat telling us that we are alive and conscious in that awesome knowledge. Then, once in our asana, observe the sensations flowing through the body, feel it and stay intentionally active in it. Now… strike a pose!
But hold on, the work isn’t done yet… once here, wherever that is, avoid waiting for the teacher to cue the next movement. Stay present here for the moments you have and just be, feel it and breathe…consciously.