By Lissa (Yogeshwari) Fountain
l consider myself the queen of self-care. I can’t remember the last time I needed to take a sick day. Doing my practices keeps my immune system strong, my spine flexible. My spirits stay uplifted and steady. Ujjayi Pranayama, meditation, chanting and asana start my morning. I offer seva, repeat mantra and try to remember my Guru throughout each day.
Still, I am capable of throwing myself off a deep end, forgetting how to swim! Swami Nirmalananda’s Teachings article, Assess Your Condition, could not have come at a better time. Swamiji points out, “While yoga’s tools work better than anything else, you need to pay attention to how you’re feeling and what you need.”
A lot is going on in my life. My husband is retiring, and we are putting our house on the market. I’m teaching my classes, travelling and teaching for the Ashram. I am seeing clients, leading satsangs, writing blogs, etc. Endings, beginnings and maintenance — it’s all Shiva dancing through form and beyond form. Yet it is so easy to give into my distracted mind’s demands. I’m in hurry. I forget that all is Shiva, being me. I find myself doing my “wonder woman yogi” routine. Then it’s time to stop and assess the condition of my body and mind.
I am noticing the four symptoms of a mind distracted from Self. Rendering Patanjali Yoga Sutras 1.31, Swamiji lists them: pain, despair, nervousness and interrupted breathing. She reveals that “in addition to the four symptoms, there’s a mystical secret hidden in this sutra. Patanjali explains their common cause: vik.sepa (vik-SHAY-paw) — distracted mind. He means your mind is distracted from your deeper essence.”
I find I am most susceptible to interrupted breathing (shvasa-prashvasah). My mind is fragmented with endless details and plans. In this busy time, I need a moment-to-moment infusion of Divine Essence. I need to settle down, and tap in. Swamiji’s February “quick fix” makes this accessible: “do a few Ujjayi breaths, anywhere and anytime.”
Just today, a yoga buddy could hear the anxiety in my voice. So, together, we stopped everything and took a few slow, long, easy Ujjayi breaths. The space between us filled in with Self. The sound of my breath got me out of my head and into my body. The space within me filled with my essence and expanded. It opened me to the still center within. Shiva!
Swamiji describes that “you hold your breath so you won’t feel the feelings that are surfacing or are just below the surface.” Until I read this, I had no idea it could be happening to me. The truth is, I am experiencing a major life transition. I am trying to dial down the accompanying emotions and dramas. There are, however, some big feelings to feel, not to repress! Doing a minute of Ujjayi breathing re-centers me. Divine Essence fills me. Nothing outside is so urgent. Perspective returns. It was just the mind, after all. When I feel thrown into the deep end, I don’t have to flail my arms. I don’t even have to swim. I can breathe, listen to my breath’s sweet sound and soften. Then I float in Guru’s Grace.