Inside Out (Written for Australian Yoga Journal 6/2017)

Greetings Yogis,

I'd love to take a moment here to share a reminder of how we can bring more mindfulness into our yoga practice, and how we can connect the innermost elements of our practice with the outermost layers of our lives. Let's take a look at how we can journey inwards to engage with a more internally connected space:

Start by becoming aware of where you are right now. Slow down for moment, and begin to observe your surroundings. Notice the space you're in, the quality of the environment, the overall atmosphere and feeling of the space around you. Take note of the textures, the tones, and how much your senses can take in whilst you connect to your outer surroundings. Start to sip in the details, and notice the little nuances. As you become more aware of the external setting, see how you can start to relax into your body and inner layers of your mind, breath, and feeling. Let the outer edges of your body begin to relax, softening your skin, and inviting that softness to pour its way inwards into your inner most core. Continue to breathe deeply, in a really natural and easy way as you follow the pathway of your inner softening.

As you begin to follow the subtlety of your breath into your inner space, see how you can drop into your basic most awareness of yourself inside this moment. Try relaxing your attention back a level, so you can start to notice any mental chatter, inner dialogue, and gradually you can transition into a mode of observing yourself and the moment simultaneously. By tapping into this depth of awareness, you may find the dust starts to settle, and you can start to observe your thoughts, mind, body, and breath with more acute clarity. Allow yourself to stay here in this place of observation for a few minutes, encouraging a space of presence, peacefulness, and gentle awareness. As you finish, slowly ease into your day and carry the gifts that you revive with you. You can keep this up over time, and use it as a tool to practice orienting yourself with internal direction.

Over time, this inner compass can be cultivated and soon it will become a touchstone of peace and balance for you to use and access as you please. No matter where you are, wherever you go in the world, you can carry this inner map with you as a place to draw on for support in your life and in your daily practice. The method is refreshingly simple: look inwards to find your true north. The map is available, and the landscape awaits inside you. With this discovery mindfulness within comes an array of benefits. Here are just a few of those benefits:

Regular Mindfulness and Meditation practices: - Reduce stress / cortisol levels / anxiety - Promote overall wellness and well being - Have the ability to reduce fight or flight responses / adrenal overload & fatigue - Increase capacity to focus and concentrate - Great for relaxation, and can aid in deeper sleep - Recent studies have shown that meditation can assist in emotional regulation, improve learning, improve memory, and re-wire neural pathways, potentially even creating new brain cells

"Mindfulness is not chasing the moment but sipping the nectar of the moment." Amit Ray, Mindfulness

In conjunction with the practice of mindfulness, the internal voyage of discovery can be enriched by understanding the yogic limb of Pratyahara, which is all about going inwards. Pratyaraha is usually defined as 'withdrawing of the senses,' in order to understand how we are internally affected by external influences around us. By drawing our senses inwards, we can begin to understand how all outer influences affect us, and how we can gain more skill in maintaining equilibrium within, by using discernment in what we allow to impress upon us, and utilIng tools to find or centre. In bringing more awareness of what we're taking in through our senses (taste, touch, smell, sound, sight, what we eat, what we drink, and the experiences we have) we can start to understand how we are affected and how everything we take in ultimately leaves some kind of impression on us or affects us. Through regular meditation, mindfulness, and inward yoga practice we can slowly peel back the layers of these impressions and return home into ourselves and our innermost blueprint. In this way, a daily practice of mindfulness and meditation can do great wonders to bring us back into the moment, aware and present with the gifts and opportunities life is presenting to us.

By creating space to go within, we create ideal conditions to cultivate well being, to hone our centre, and to create more room for balance in our lives. At first you can challenge yourself to set this time aside as a priority in your day, and eventually making it a daily ritual or habit. Create a framework to work from: When will you practice going within? Is there a space in your home you can set aside to devote your practice to? How long will you sit for? Consider setting realistic and attainable goals to work from to chart a path for success. Make it accessible for yourself so your practice can easily integrate into your daily life. Going within need not be limited to mindfulness and meditation only, but you can bring pratyahara into your yoga asana practice. Slower practices like yin yoga, restorative yoga, and yoga nidra are all great starting points to carry more inner space. Going within can also be explored in other ways like taking a salt bath, float tanks, or even reflective walks in nature.

Approach even your meditation practice with gentleness as you begin to explore your inner space. There is a richness in this practice, a gem within to discover as you chart your journeys inwards. Go there. Explore there. Become curious. Carry your discoveries with you into your life and what You do, in that way you can remember to carry your best space forward. Remember in life's moments where you feel in any way disoriented, out of balance, off from centre, there is a vast resivoire to draw on, an inner compass to orient yourself, and a map that leads back home into your inner intelligence.

The directions to find your way to that place inside you are simple: "Inquire within."