Start Fresh, Again
By Laura Mills
This Sunday traditional Chinese families will celebrate Chinese New Year, a holiday of abundant symbolism that honors family unity, joy, and peace. One of the customs observed in preparation for the 15-day-long celebration is the thorough cleaning of the family home; sweeping, scrubbing, polishing and painting represent the departure of bad fortune and an invitation to good. In the physical sense the cleaning clears dirt and clutter. In the mental sense it bestows the promise of a new beginning and indicates the first step towards greater things to come.
I adore this tie between literal house cleaning and metaphorical starting over. For one, I have always found activities like vacuuming and scrubbing—while not always enjoyable—extremely therapeutic for stress and sadness, so the idea of cleaning to obtain something more than sparkling countertops really resonates. But also, it’s a very yogic concept. As we practice yoga postures we bend, twist, stretch and invert the physical body; we also inhale and exhale, three-dimensionally expanding and contracting the torso as well as infusing fresh nutrients all throughout. Physically speaking, among other things, this practice strengthens, tones, detoxifies, and heals.
But much, much more occurs with the physical act of putting body and breath through yoga. At the very least, we “just feel good” as we rise from our mats after practice. Yes, body and breath move more freely, but this feeling also includes a lightness of mind that wasn’t present before. Sincere and heart-felt yoga practice graces us with restoration of calm, heightening of confidence, and clearance of blockages that we may not have even known existed. Many of us rise from the mat with fresh perspective and newfound positivity; some of us even rise with a little more self-love.
One might say that yoga invites us towards a new beginning every time we practice. How fortunate we are, really, that peace and joy are only a breath away!
By Laura Mills
Right now I am sitting at my kitchen table in front of my computer, having just finished my cereal, drinking coffee, listening to classical music. The patio door is open and I’m looking into my yard, and I’m hearing the chirps of crickets and birds. Of course, not every moment of my life is this easily sweet; just this morning before breakfast I dusted the living room, swept the kitchen, and fed and cleaned up after my cats. Soon enough, I’ll head back upstairs to get ready for work. But right now, in this moment, I am exactly where I want to be.
We all experience snippets of life like this in which the immediate circumstances just seem right. We are content to breathe and feel and be without immediately moving on to something else. We think, “Ah, so THIS is happiness.” Our challenge, I believe, as I discuss so often with other yogis, is to nurture the contentment of these moments and apply it to the times when life isn’t so accommodating. Our yoga practices help; with yoga, we encourage our bodies, minds and spirits towards lasting and perfectly balanced peace.
But in the meantime, we relish the peace that comes easily. We sigh, take a deep breath, and give thanks.
“Re-doing” is exciting. Even on the smallest scale—cleaning out a drawer, for example, or reorganizing a few files, or disposing of spoiled food from the refrigerator. If the project occurs on a larger scale, as in painting a room, vacuuming an entire home, or rearranging furniture, we feel especially exhilarated. Any time we de-clutter and make space, in fact, we gift ourselves with renewal. Not really coincidentally, as yogis know, we encounter the same renewal when we step on our mats. Through breath and poses we de-clutter blockages from our bodies and make space for peace in our minds. And with regards to both kinds of de-cluttering, when we come together to accomplish it, the “good vibes” seem to multiply exponentially.
Imagine, then, the vibes that will be energizing Total Body Yoga in the weeks ahead! For sure, we’ll clean out drawers, reorganize files, and dispose of a lot of old stuff; we’ll also paint, improve the carpet, and rearrange furniture. But immediately after that, we’ll also come back together to our mats to continue practicing yoga, allowing life to flow through our bodies and peace to spread through our minds. And because we’ll accomplish all of this as a kula, or family, the positivity that shines up the studio—on all levels—will be perfectly amazing.