If you’ve ever tried to meditate and kept getting distracted by thoughts popping up, that’s your monkey mind at work.
The term is often used in Buddhist circles to describe the mental chatter we humans have going on almost all the time. It’s a playful way of categorizing the many many thoughts that involuntarily float into our minds every day.
Yoga and meditation are tools we use to get acquainted with our monkey mind and feel more at ease.
But are all of them effective?
It occurred to me the other day that modern Vinyasa may actually be feeding the monkey mind.
Its quick pace, contemporary music, and strong outward presence on social media leads me to wonder if this type of practice really supports the type of balance we’re looking for in our daily lives.
I’m not saying Vinyasa isn’t good, but I am questioning the way it’s most often presented, and feeling that it fuels the exact things we’re trying to avoid: Feeling like we’re rushing all the time, caught up in anxiety, and always striving to achieve the next thing before celebrating the present moment.
Our world has become so fast that we hardly have time to explore and savor each day. We bounce from one thing to the next, checking to-dos off our list rather than really feeling complete in each moment.
If a situation gets uncomfortable or challenging, we look for a quick fix to feel better.
Often in Vinyasa classes, it’s about moving quickly between the postures, pushing your body, and getting a good workout. It’s about how much you can achieve in 60-90 minutes.
As soon as a pose gets uncomfortable or too challenging, you’re out and onto the next move. I’ve even been to some classes where I’ve barely had the chance to take one inhale and exhale before the teacher guided us to the next posture.
The pace and goal-oriented nature of modern Vinyasa mimics our daily lives. How funny is that?
For so many of us, we barely have time to enjoy breakfast – or even a cup of tea.
We’re drinking and eating and connecting on the go (texting, anyone?), and seldom have enough quiet time to actually feel our physical, mental, and emotional bodies.
Isn’t yoga supposed to give us a chance to do just that?
And listen, I know there are many people who are reading this and feeling some confusion and resistance.
You might be thinking, “But she practices Ashtanga. Isn’t that a form of Vinyasa?”
Absolutely 100% correct!
Ashtanga is both a Vinyasa and a Mysore style of practice, the latter of which means practitioners move through the practice at their own pace once they have full comprehension of the sequences. And I have great reverence for this.
Honoring your personal pace in yoga and life is one of the most important things you can do, and it’s the answer to this little Vinyasa conundrum I’m talking about today.
If you love Vinyasa but are wondering if it’s actually helping you feel better or just fueling your monkey mind, all you have to do is start paying close attention to your body and mind as you practice.
Vinyasa is defined as the movement between poses and the ability to link the poses with your breath. This is an extremely important aspect of the practice. Too often, too little emphasis is placed here, and teachers don’t take the time to deeply explore, experience, and really excavate the poses.
In my 15+ years of practice, I’ve found that by slowing things down and playing with various methods, I’ve been able to create an environment that encourages deep curiosity and intimacy with oneself, one’s practice, and one’s breath.
It’s allowed me to deepen my poses in a way I never thought possible.
Within this container, I’ve learned how to spend time unpacking the poses that are most challenging for me, and have found new ways to work with them, befriending what I initially wanted to run away from – or just didn’t feel like doing.
To me, approaching our practice gently, working within the confines of demanding postures, and staying with our bodies is the perfect metaphor for life. We have to be with what is – we can’t escape.
It can be so illuminating when we slow things down and bring a sense of curiosity – and even an investigative spirit – to the time we spend on our mats.
Playing with alternative styles and approaches to see what works for you and what doesn’t not only allows you to feel different things in your body, it gives you the chance to stretch your mind, and supports space for all possibilities.
Even in the moments when things don’t turn out exactly how we would have liked, we can be with ourselves, and be at peace.
Taking time and bringing a sense of mindfulness into our practice allows for a sense of extraordinary being, and being is at the core of what it means to be human.
How will you bring more attention to your practice this week to see how it’s really serving your body and mind?
Leave a comment below and tell me your thoughts on this important subject.
I can’t wait to hear from you!