Mindfulness and yoga in Boxted Essex
Mindfulness in never just a calming mediation and yoga is not always practiced in a studio or even on a mat!!
At last a therapeutic experience and hard graft are not for me an oxymoron! Mindfulness and work are of course complementary and the yoga naturally came into force when I had a warning sign from a good strong back that didn’t like leaning forward at an awkward angle whilst a shovel full of type 1 was being unskillfully aimed at a bucket or two!
The path to the yurt is naturally a joy to dig as indeed it will serve many as they weave their way to the Peace Haven at the end of the trail! Yes the garden is an ugly one at the moment, stripped bare of any colour and stark with wintry spikes and naked spindles. Also of course the earth we moved to site the yurt is tipped casually to one side and covered over to halt the march of the stingers and brambles that dominate this little patch of the old Roman capital that is now Colchester (or Camuludunum as it was then called), as if they were indeed Bouddica’s tribe laying waste to whatever else might sturdily and obstinately grow there.
But that is not an image I wish to cultivate and so the black plastic covers are a temporary look of course and the real joy is the creativity that unfolds in my family as we mindfully discover a wonderful pastime that nobody except me felt any real enthusiasm for to begin with. Usually, a drab, cold and damp day sends men and teenagers to their dens and to their inevitable screens in whatever format they may prefer. Furthermore, the wonderful man in my life is a grafter all week long in the cold and never gives up no matter how much pain he suffers or how fed up he may be with his chosen career and so the fact he spends his weekends in the garden with his cherished ones, digging and heaving and wrestling with earth and wood and stones is not unnoticed by me! As I think about him with all this compassion, the joy in me blossoms all over again, which we are told leaves an imprint in the neurons and cells of the brain. Firing up joy and love neruons makes a difference to your body as obviously a hormonal expression follows the thoughts and feelings of happiness. The hormones of bonding and happiness are oxytocin and serotonin, which dip naturally in the winter months for most, leaving us a bit blue and lacking in energy a lot of the time. So here another plus wonderously presents itself as we move the earth, besides the obvious one of building the path itself.
Back to my back (so to speak), as this presented more opportunities to celebrate the practices that I live by, namely, the contemplative and God filled mindfulness and the Spirit-led yoga that unfolds naturally within me. Having felt the warning twinge and twist in the muscles of the lumbar spine area, the movements that I was automatically performing to shovel the type 1 into the buckets, heave the buckets on to the loader, lift the bucket and tip the contents where needed were of course all the same and favouring the right side of my body. The necessary actions to complete the task are well, necessary, but the way in which I execute them unmindfully in many ways, certainly in terms of how the body actually performs them, can of course be to my detriment. Having been a yogi for a decade and a half now, the immediate response to the muscle flinch was to allow a spine to align itself first in tadasana and root my concentration through the feet as a grounding mechanism and steadying action, then perform a strengthening back bend to alleviate the lumbar aggravation of an awkward forward bend-cum-slight twist as I laboured and poured.
The natural spine is able to shift in six directions as my first compassionate and frankly beautiful yoga guru continously informed me. And so, the twists and sidebends and the final uttanasana (standing forward bend) that I gracefully performed on my drive (with only the pigeons to witness), flowed peacefully, alleviated the twinge immediately and calmed overworked muscles on the dominant side of the trunk. Mindfulness featured in the poses themselves as well as the long, slow, deep breaths that should accompany all asana performed naturally – feeding into the vagus system as a series of messages that the relaxation response was now engaged. More endorphins and bonding hormone for me as I attended to myself and calmed fraught muscles! Nevertheless, work must continue and so I mindfully crouched and used a smaller shovel type implement to fill the buckets that my super neighbour gave us (provoking thoughts of kindness in me as I used it), changed to shovelling with my left hand and twisted to the left from thereon afterwards to give the right side a rest. I pondered if this would forge new neural pathways in the brain by the way, as well as mused about left and right hemispheres but lazily have not checked out any theories or research on this as yet!
To conclude, so much enhancement came from this act of creating a path to the yurt, in mind, body and spirit, (forgive the cliché). Not only did my children contribute to a beautiful Sprit-led project and get some much needed fresh air, they smiled, felt uplifted, bonded even more with their father and I and even experienced the rush of feel good hormones for themselves (with the younger girl boldly claiming she will become a labourer as a part-timer for her daddy’s roofing company!!). Us adults felt chuffed with our efforts and spurred on with a project coming closer to completion. Accomplishing tasks can fight off despair and procrastination of course and the hormonal uplift from bonding, fresh air, compassion, friendliness and cherishing speaks volumes for marriage enrichment. Normally when working together, one of us takes umbrage at the other’s methods that seem illogical to him or her! However, that is another image I wish to cross out from the reader’s mind!
Blessings to you all and God be with you.