By Jane Macpherson, yoga teacher (IYA 500 hours) and yoga therapist who has been helping her clients embrace change for more than 15 years. www.janemacphersonyoga.co.uk
Thank goodness for yoga during these stressful and uncertain times.
Parinama, the knowledge that everything is always changing, is one of most fundamental concepts in yoga. It teaches us to observe that things are always changing and enables us to accept and embrace the change.
This was the key theme of the chapter I co-wrote with my change-expert husband, Campbell, for his second book, ‘The Power to Change’, now published worldwide by Kogan Page. I highly recommend it!
The Covid-19 lockdown last Spring sent anxiety levels through the roof and nine months on, there is little sign of the uncertainty or the anxiety letting up. In fact, we are starting to fear that our future may be dominated by new waves of this virus and further lockdowns. We are worried about catching the virus, the impact of another bout of isolation, the mental health of our children and parents, our jobs, our businesses, our livelihoods, our partners. We are worried about whether the family will be able to get together for Christmas this year. Egged on by a media that loves to revel in a crisis, the anxiety can be overwhelming.
The solution is to stop trying to live in the future - a future we cannot control - and ground ourselves in the present. That’s where yoga comes in.
I often start my evening classes (online or in person) with a simple practice to help people calm the incessant chattering of their minds. I say: “You might be here physically but you're not here mentally. Your mind is not here. It is either in the past or the future. And yoga is about being in the present moment.”
During the first few minutes of a class, I invite everyone to “arrive on their mat”. I ask them to lie down, focus on their breathing and connect with how their body feels. Enabling the mind to focus on the physical brings the mind into the present and helps the body to calm. An amazing transformation occurs in just a few short minutes; their breathing slows, their bodies unwind, and I can almost feel the buzzing in their minds start to fade.
It is impossible to calm the mind if your body is feeling tight, tense or uncomfortable; if your breathing is shallow or fast. To calm the body we must calm the mind – and vice versa. The mind and the body are two sides of the same coin.
In ‘The Power to Change’, Campbell talks about coming to the realisation that there are things in life that we simply have no control over. Accepting this fact can be a powerful relief and a profound experience, but it requires us to stay in the present and calm our minds. Only then can we identify those things that we can change.
Yoga helps us to approach our thoughts and emotions with objectivity and see the bigger picture. It helps us to approach change as an independent observer; not as someone who is a victim of it.
It gives us the power to change. Written by Campbell Macpherson and Jane Macpherson. Campbell is an international business adviser and the author of The Power to Change: How to Harness Change to Make it Work for You, published by Kogan Page, priced £14.99
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