I’m a question asker, I like to understand the “why”. If I know the deeper “why” behind my desires it strengthens my resolve to keep working towards the achievement.
Sometimes at yoga workshops I’ll guide folks through a Q and A game that helps them get to their “big why” behind going to yoga. Two people dialogue back and forth, it goes something like this…
Q: “Why do you practice yoga?”
A: “So my body is less achy and more flexible.”
Q: “And what does that get you?”
A: “I’ll be able to remain active even as I age.”
Q: “And what will that get you?”
A: “A healthy body that can get down on the floor with my grand kids.”
Q: “And what will that get you?”
A: “More time with the people I love.”
And so on and so forth. You see the idea of how it keeps going. You may also be able to see how the “big why” ends up at a very different place than where it started.
Interestingly, when we share in a circle after the exercise is over a lot of people’s “big whys” are similar to each other, often they end up near a sentiment of:
- more peace
- more contentment
- a sense of ease and freedom
Consistent yoga practice helps many people, myself included, feel a greater sense of ease and peace. But why?
Here’s my opinion… yoga practice teaches me how to be intimately connected with the true nature of my unique mind and body. As a result, when it comes to my life off of the mat I am clearer about what works for me and what doesn’t. I am clearer about how I fit into my environment and community. In service of truth I garner courage to make choices that support my well being, sense of freedom and vitality. Life loosens up.
Yoga is Nature and Nature is Yoga
Ayurveda (yoga’s sister science) tells us that optimal health and full human potential are dependent on a lifestyle that is in sync with the cycles of nature. It also tells us that living out of sync with these cycles will deplete vitality, cause stress, create excessive desires and, ultimately, cause disease.
Cycles of nature include: daylight and night, the change of seasons, the cycles of the moon and the primary workings of the body. Many of our modern conveniences and pass times disconnect us from these natural cycles.
I love technology. I love being inside cozy spaces. I enjoy using my car to get here and there quickly. There are many conveniences about the modern world that float my boat. But in the case of my human animal body, too much convenience coupled with too much time task mastering my life leads me down a road toward frenetic effort, worry, lack of clarity, sleeplessness, lack of creativity and a host of mind/body discomforts.
With the state of ill health in our country it’s both savvy and proactive to focus time and energy towards helping our bodies to thrive BUT in addition to better quality of life an added bonus to the endeavor is that it can lead to an increased ability to extend ourselves to helping others.
Stick with me here, I’ll explain further. Let’s start by getting back to yoga.
The word “yoga” means “to join”, it’s a verb. When we join our attention, breath and felt sensations together during a good yoga class we are connecting with ourselves, it’s an act of intimacy. Yoga helps us to intimately observe the nature of our body and mind, with all its fluctuations, for better or for worse. We learn to *sit* with all of our human tendencies.
When we learn to surf the fluctuating waves of stresses, thoughts and emotions we experience in daily life it means we have less less freak out and more grace. Grounded in our own grace we are equip to remain steady amidst the challenges we witness in other people’s lives and the world news.
Our natural world is in a state of distress, many people are as well, our attention and care is needed. It’s an advanced yoga move but we can *open up* to the distress while letting go of the inner tension and turmoil associated with it.
It’s both yogic and humanitarian to be concerned with the health of the natural world and all its people. But what can we do?
Science is studying the effects of nature on people and the answer to the question “what can I do?” can start out really simply. To begin – get your arse outside more and shut down your technology a bit.
One study showed that the folks who regularly got out in nature became more socially concerned and focused on supporting others. They also became more generous in their decision-making. Isn’t that sweet?
Meanwhile those who didn’t spend time in nature were more self-focused and self-centered. These studies suggest that nature immersion supports a more community-focused, giving mindset. Folks, we need this!
We also need creative, innovative thinkers in our communities, this includes the young and the old alike. All hands on deck! In another study, after a 4-day nature immersion and a disconnection from any type of technology, creativity and problem-solving skills were enhanced by a 50%.
Wouldn’t it be nice to come up with creative solutions to your problems more easily? Getting out in nature helps.
Next, when it comes to body pain (inflammation), stress hormones and vital energy there is another study showing how nature is a resource for reducing these ails. Of the two groups, the nature-immersed saw reduced oxidative stress, lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels and less inflammatory markers along with greater signs of energy and vigor compared to the city-immersed group.
Alas, we are inextricably connected to the natural world. Spending time in nature gives us clearer thinking, a more generous social outlook and less personal pains, which means less distractions from the knowing of our heart and soul.
In Ayurvedic teachings nature is revered as an endlessly accessible resource for re-balancing our physiology and re-connecting to our own true nature. Science is showing how spending time being in raw, nature-abundant places can help us take care of each other and the environments that support us in a more holistic and meaningful way.
Living in sync with the cycles of nature honors the fact that our body’s systems are governed by them – living against these cycles leads to stress and dis-ease.
Into Action in Everyday Life
Most of the women I get the privilege of working with are craving a greater sense of peace, ease and flow in their lives.
In our conversations they explain to me how they want things like: more exercise, weight loss, better eating, better time management skills, better ways for coping with their stress, less worry about their children, less stress and anxiety.
But as we get to know each other and I keep inquiring about the “big why” behind their desires, they’ll begin to speak of qualities similar to peace, flow, ease and freedom.
Yoga, meditation and Ayurvedic self-care practices (which includes aligning with nature’s cycles) help people to access their inner knowing and their intrinsic value system more easily.
In order to build steady habits with this stuff one needs a resilient sense of commitment. If you fall off the wagon, recognize you fell off and fret no more, just get back on. Again and again and again.
My aim is to provide people with simple tasks that fit into their everyday life while also improving their quality of life. Small intentional habits make a difference for individuals, for families, for communities and for the planet. If you think you might like to receive my support while you build your habits let’s chat.
Even More “Big Why” Behind Yoga
Beyond the physical poses and the feel good aspects of yoga I’ll invite you to consider these additional benefits. Try them on, see if they’re true for you. Perhaps they’ll strengthen your resolve to keep up the good work.
- Your yoga practice is a tool that helps you get clear about what’s most important to you in this one precious life. Once you get clear you have greater chance of creating it, of making it real.
- Your yoga practice is a tool that re-connects you with your body. The more connected you are, the easier it is to tell when it’s out of whack or running like a champ – mind, body and emotions.
- Your yoga practice is a tool that strengthens your ability to set boundaries and make the choices in your life that align with your intrinsic value system, your true nature.
- Your yoga practice is a way to celebrate the interdependent nature of everything inside and outside of you, it strengthens your ability to care for not just yourself but your communities and the planet too.
10 Ways to Receive More of Nature’s Goodness
Nature is an untapped resource that helps us find answers to the question, “what can I do?”. Here’s a few small ways to get more nature into your life or the lives of others. Go ahead, indulge yourself in nature, be willing to get quiet and simply be.
- Learn to be in nature as an observer/receiver not a just a doer
- Schedule a short walk or sit in a natural setting each day
- Go for a walk and leave your phone at home
- Schedule a walk, hike or visit to a forest each week
- Learn one new wild food each year, learn how to collect it
- Schedule a 4 day *unplugged* trip into nature 2+ times per year
- If you already get out in nature invite someone who doesn’t
- Learn how to practice walking meditation in the forest
- Observe beauty in nature each day, write it down or tell someone
- Visit a local farm that grows food for the community
- Practice yoga in nature
I’m curious. How does all this land with you? Do any of these ways of being in nature appeal to you? Do you know anyone else who may find this article helpful? Pass it along to them and if possible, make a nature date with them too.