We talk about practice a lot in yoga, but what do we mean by the word, “practice?”
The two Sanskrit words: sadhana and abhyasa refer to practice.
Now, commit. Show up. Do your practice daily. Repeat again and again. This is abhyasa and it build heat, which fuels transformation.
This is what is meant by practice! This is yoga!
The quest for the Self is a key aim of the yoga tradition. Here at Great Heart Yoga, we take the time to not only practice, but to also really savor the beautiful and ancient teachings from the yoga tradition. Here is a timeless passage from the Upanishads:
The Self is in all.
He/She is all the gods, the five elements,
Earth, air, fire, water, and space; All creatures,
Great or small, born of eggs, of wombs, of heat,
Of shoots, horses, cows, elephants, men and women;
All beings that walk, all beings that fly,
And all that neither walk nor fly.
- Aaitryeya Upanishad
Today, I'm gonna offer you one simple way to be more grounded in your body. Grounding is another way to say centered or focused or present. This is an essential skill for yogis because the work of yoga is to unify our mind/heart with our body. That means that we learn to use our bodies in service of shifting awareness to our greatest potential. You can use your body to do this!
Sometimes when I feel distracted, overwhelmed or in the emotional turnstile, I try to think my way out of it. I don't know about you, but to wield an haggard mind to slay demons rarely works. What almost always works is to shift my awareness to my body and take action. If I'm sitting, I stand. If I'm standing, I jump. I dance and shake and breathe to stillness. The only thing about this tactic is that it is, obvious. There's no hiding. And I'm not suggesting you hide your healthy movement tools from the general public. In fact, I'm suggesting the opposite. That you start to make it a habit to get grounded more frequently, more publicly.
All is takes to shift your state, is to shift your weight. As you are standing up reading this, move your hips straight back until they are over your heels. Imagine your legs were moving away from something in front of you, leaving your feet in place. Only your pelvis will move. If you feel like you are sticking your butt out, that's it. With your weight centered over your heels, you should be able to lift and wiggle your toes.
Why back it up? Because when you move your hips back, your thighs settle into the hip joint. When the head of your femur (leg bone) is nestled deeply into the socket, it calms the body. It sends a message of "safe" to your nervous system, which soothes you from the inside out.
You can do this move anytime, but it works best barefoot. If you are wearing any kind of heeled footwear, it will prevent you from making this shift. Try it during your yoga practice - move your thighs back, untuck your butt, back it up. See what happens!
Here at Great Heart Yoga, we love diving into the ancient texts of the yoga tradition. Here is a favorite of mine from the Vedas:
In the beginning Love arose,
Which was the primal germ cell of the mind.
The Seers, searching in their hearts with wisdom,
Discovered the connection of Being in Nonbeing.
Yoga is the practice of stepping fully into one's body, mind and heart. It is our deep belief that the human body is sacred and it is the very vessel through which the light of the Great Heart shines through. Yoga is a path in which we learn to confront and embrace ourselves fully - our bodies, emotions, thoughts, challenges and joys; and via the tools of profound practice move more and more toward a stabilized condition of well-being and expansive freedom.
If you are a yogi, chances are, you are on a quest for knowledge and wisdom. In yoga there are two kinds of knowledge, intellectual knowledge, jnana, and experiential knowledge, vijnana. That is to say, in order to really know something, there must be understanding on the level of the the mind as well as on the heart and body. These two types of knowledge are like two wings of a bird.
I like to think of these two kinds of knowledge when I think about knowing a mango. Someone can describe to you what a mango looks like, its color, shape and size and tell you all about how delicious a mango is, how sweet and how succulent. You can intellectually understand a mango, but you’ll never really know a mango until you taste it.
Here are some ways this can play out in yoga:
I came to the practice of yoga via yoga asana, the physical practice of postures.. For the first few years of my yoga practice, I practiced several times a week and gained an experiential understanding of the practice, vijnana. I had physical,, emotional and spiritual experiences, but I often didn’t have the language or concepts to describe what I was experiencing. At that point, I didn’t have any exposure to the yogic texts that described the experiences and states I was feeling. When years later, I finally began to read the yoga texts, there were lots of “ah ha’s” as I began to integrate the experiences that I had on the mat with an intellectual understanding or jnana of what was happening to me on the level of my physical body, mind and on the level of my subtle anatomy. It was then that the practice became more fully understood and integrated.
By contrast, my experience of meditation was the opposite: For several years, I knew that meditation was good for people, but rather than practicing it, I just read voraciously about it. I knew about all of the benefits and different techniques, jnana, but I didn’t actually practice meditation, so I didn’t have a full understanding of what meditation really was. How could I have? Finally, after several years of just reading about meditation, I decided to actually learn to meditate so I found a teacher who taught me a particular meditation style, and I started to meditate and had experiences that confirmed what I had read about. It was then that I gained experiential knowledge about meditation. That is, I got to know meditation from the inside out.
In Great Heart Yoga programs, our programs are grounded in jnana and vijnana.
If you study with us, you can expect a lot of hours of practice in yoga postures, breathwork and meditation where you will gain a lot of experiential knowledge of yoga. You can also expect a lot of hours of reading, thinking and discussing key yoga texts. Our comprehensive program aims to nourish your body, mind and heart for truly integrated experience of yoga.
Do this any and every time your hands are on the ground!
Let me know how it goes!!
It is a such is an honor and a pleasure to share in the work of Great Heart Yoga with Whitney Lawless! Whitney is dedicated to her own evolution and to helping others evolve and awaken through movement and authentic inquiry. One of the things I love about working with Whitney is that she is always opening herself to new learning, especially in the realm of movement. She is body smart and super curious about embodiment and the ways of the human body. Whitney doesn’t use limit her movement practices to classical yoga asana postures, she is an avid student of movement in all forms including yoga, dance, circus performance, tree climbing, natural and restorative movement practices, Cross Fit, paddle boarding, and the list goes on! Being a natural mover, Whitney brings to the teaching of yoga asana a wide view of movement and alignment, and draws on a variety of movement knowledge systems which makes for a rich and varied learning experience.
Whitney writes regularly about her authentic journey in yoga and in life on her blog. Check it out here: