Yoga develops awareness. We often think of this as self-awareness, which is true- but yoga also develops environmental awareness. Our ability to tune into ourselves requires a connection with the outer world. Without it, how do we understand how we fit, and how we connect? Yoga tunes you into the environment and the animals in it. Breaking out of the self and human realm, and looking at the larger, connected world, gives you a holistic perspective and a new appreciation for the world around you.
Animals have a lot to teach us. Understanding our place in the environment and connection to animals can improve awareness, and that awareness filters into your yoga practice. We just have to observe, listen and learn.
1. Reflect on the role animals play in your life
The animal world and the human world are intertwined, even if it isn’t always obvious. Reflect on how animals play a role in your life, ranging from your pets to the products you use. What do animals ultimately bring to your world? What are you bringing into theirs?
2. Stop, watch and observe
Understanding the wisdom of animals requires the patience to stop and observe what they are doing. Watch some birds out the window, explore animal movements at the zoo, or observe your own pet. Note what behaviors stand out to you, and what new actions you observe.
3. Visualize and embody through movement
When practicing yoga poses, visualize the animal the poses represent and try to embody the animal through movement. For example:
Ustrasana is a great way to prepare for deeper backbends. What’s the relationship to actual camels? In the pose, the body resembles a “hump” shape, the identifying feature of camels that stores energy resources and helps them prepare for challenges in the environment. Imagine preparing for a challenge in your life, and focus on the quality of preparedness in camels to inspire you.
Bhujangasana embodies the graceful movement of cobras, rising up to explore the environment. Imagine the way a cobra moves, keeping the arms close to the ribs to help harness the upward movement.
Lions are often seen as powerful and regal. Tap into your inner lion by roaring with Simhasana, a great way to release stress and feel strong.
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