Yoga has swept the world in an evolutionary way, and for the most part it has been an uplifting spiritual practice that has helped millions of people connect to a deeper sense of self and a rhythm of nourishing self care. In another context, it has also become a new fad, a new technique to being fitter, stronger, skinnier, better looking – a work out process that has an end result of self improvement – and it is for this reason that we feel it is important to really bring attention to Yoga as an intentional way of living in relationship with yourself rather than a means to an end.
Yoga, as it is known around the world is primarily focused on the Asanas, the bending and stretching poses that help to tone and support the physical body, but far beyond that is the deep connection that Yoga offers as awareness of your breathe, and the sacred life force that flows through you.
As a conscious movement practice, Yoga enriches ones relationship with self, it creates a sense of spaciousness within the mind, body and spirit. Rather than it being a sequence of poses that can be continually perfected, conscious movement practices, such as yoga and dance, invite the opportunity to show up for yourself, to listen deeply to what is moving through you in any given moment, and to create a non verbal form of expression for your being.
It is wonderful to hear the term ‘conscious movement’ being referred to more commonly and that we have so many amazing teachers bringing this form of practice to Mana. One such teacher, Jessica Devi from Yoga Within Studios in Brown’s Bay, Auckland has been teaching at Mana for 4 years now. She is an inspired Yogini, teacher and student of movement and breathe, when she is not busy managing her yoga studio or teaching classes, she is juggling life as a mother, wife and dedicated self carer.
This week we interviewed Jessica about her personal practice, and it is always so humbling to hear how it all unfolds behind the scenes.
So Jess, how do you use conscious movement / yoga as a tool for self care?
Yoga and conscious movement have been part of my self care practice for over 2 decades now. I was using them as ways to balance, calm and support myself even before I knew I was doing it intentionally! I stumbled across yoga in my early 20’s as a way to help with the anxiety I was experiencing. Coming from a gymnastics and dance background it was a natural choice but it was some years before I began to understand the subtler aspects of yoga and how it was so much more than just a set of physical exercises.
These days I go to my mat or to the floor of my lounge/bedroom/studio as often as I can. Sometimes I spend 2 hours moving, breathing, connecting, listening and feeling. At other times I spend 2 minutes. Adding in the word ‘conscious’ to the way I see my movement practice changed everything for me. I no longer come to my mat with a feeling of “I SHOULD do this” or “I SHOULD do that”. Now days when I come to my practice I take time to be in stillness, I check in with how I’m feeling, I take stock of what time of my monthly cycle I am in, where my energy level is at, what demands and responsibilities I have on me that day/week and what my body is asking to experience. I do my best to listen deeply to my body through it’s language of feelings, sensations and images and to be guided by this. Sometimes my practice is vigorous, sweaty and active and at other times it is slow and still and deeply restorative.
Recently I have been adding in elements of art making – making marks on paper, collaging, writing – and have been finding these deeply nourishing.
I use conscious movement (dance, yoga, resting) to support me to stay/feel connected – to myself, to others and to the world we share together. By caring for myself in this way it becomes natural to care for others, it becomes natural to care for our world. Conscious movement practice helps me listen into and discover my deepest desires, the whispers of my heart and the longing of my soul. In this way I can create a life aligned with this.
Jessica combining her forms of creative expression.
How do you motivate your home practice on days when you are busy, distracted or lacking energy?
This can be challenging. I try to rise early, before the rest of my family, and practice at this time. This means, no matter how busy my days are I have still spent some time on ‘me’. Early morning is also a lovely time of the day to practice – still and reflective. However, this isn’t always possible. On days when I am really busy or overly stimulated or stressed I just do my best to try to notice this. It doesn’t necessarily make it any easier but it helps me to recognise the ‘state’ I am in or to notice the thoughts that may be playing in my mind. These can include thoughts of guilt for not making it to my practice that day, or feelings of not being good enough, or of failing. Self judgement can be a tough opponent! When I notice I have been having a lot of these kinds of thoughts and that I may not have been making as much time for my practice as I would like I try extra hard to carve out some space. After a time such as this I find my conscious movement practice especially nurturing. It helps me find my way back home again. Find my inner light and reconnect to myself again. There is such a feeling of homecoming, of relief and of tenderness. These times are all the more precious to me because of their recent absence.
In this moment what is the most valuable gift you are receiving from your conscious movement practice?
Honestly – there are so many! My conscious movement practice continues to offer me deeper and deeper understanding. My practice helps me to feel more, heal more, connect more. It satisfies my hunger for connection with myself and others, it fulfills my need to be ‘seen’ (by myself and by others when working in a group). It keeps me fit, flexible and well in body, mind an spirit. And it’s endless! I feel this is a journey I can be on for my whole life, there will never be an end point…..and I love that! It keeps me excited an open-hearted and full of hope. My conscious movement practice inspires me, every day – I am truly grateful for this!