There is never a bad time to ponder this quote from Viktor Frankl: “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” During the summer months – especially in a world of seemingly endless chaos – it is even more pertinent to contemplate how we are with ourselves and others. And where we are reactive instead of responsive. At any given moment, we each have the opportunity to practice tools that create more of a margin between stimulus and response. One way to become more aware of and create these spaces is through yoga breathing exercises. When we do, we empower ourselves to make new choices and feel our intrinsic freedom.
Part of the human condition is that we have patterned reactions based on past circumstances. Instead of pausing and choosing how to respond to a situation, most of us have habitual knee-jerk reactions. It is important to recognize that we don’t have to play out our past patterning, but it does take attention, time, and consistent repetition to bring attention to the present moment. The practices of yoga are perfect for creating a real space to do this.
If you are like most of us, your mind is jam-packed with a thought, then an idea, or perhaps a fear of a possible future event. Then an inspiration, then a memory, into an idea. Then the to-do list flows in, and the mind jumps to something else entirely! Our minds jump into the past, then the future. There is often little space between each disparate idea or thought. This is because we are in the part of our mind that is past programming, and with every moment we spend there, we are simply training ourselves to act in the same way.
In yoga, we speak of energy, and energy flows wherever we place our attention. We do this in an embodied way, as well as the more subtle work with the mind, thoughts, and who we are through our actions. The great thing is that every time you bring yourself into the authentic present moment, you train your mind to be in the space of possibility where you can choose, which is total freedom!
This whole exercise takes less than 10 minutes, and it will probably make it easier to notice that there is a margin between one thought and the next. It might also take you out of the habitual part of your brain and into the part with more creative energy. One reminder: just notice when you lose attention to your emotion or positive feeling. Every time you notice is a growth opportunity where you can choose to come back!
There is both a seated option and a mat option. What you choose is, of course, up to you, but here is a practice of focusing and generating more of a gap between the fluctuations of your mind.
Finally, I invite you to take this yoga off the mat by practicing really listening when someone is speaking. Bring in all your senses. Practice feeling what they are saying as well as seeing them too. When it is time for you to respond, trust that something authentic will come out. There is no need to rush. Pausing like this, even when you are excited to share, brings a whole new level of growth in yourself.
May this kind of presence with yourself and others bring you and others the greatest gifts of all this season: Empowerment, growth, and the feelings of connection, possibility, and freedom within the present moment and beyond!
Want more? Take 5 minutes for a midday break to stretch and tone your legs with Neesha, or check out her other uplifting yoga videos (and other fun content) on the Prime Women YouTube channel.