Finding Savasana Beyond a Yoga Mat
Moving with breath, deep focus and full presence..
..these are a few ways climbing is similar to yoga.
Both help connect mind, body and soul.
Although yoga and climbing seem very different at first glance, they share so much.
The approach is similar. The climb parallels a yoga flow and landing back on the earth can be compared to collapsing into savasana after a strong, exhilarating flow. Both work with returning to basic instincts that require linking movement and breath.
Although modern day yoga has received a popular spotlight of quick paced flows linking together advanced contortionistic poses, the traditional practice is composed of relatively simply poses (asanas) held for multiple breaths. We relax into the poses and feel the energy in our bodies, some empowering and others softening. Many poses imitate nature and we can feel the natural connection to each one when moving into them.
Climbing asks us to be present, steady our breath and begin naturally, working with instinct. Both climbers and yogis typically open with mindful breathing before beginning.
Physically, both climbing and yoga require utmost mind-body connection. In climbing, we work different parts of our bodies, multitasking foot positions, balance and looking for the next hold. In yoga, we focus on simultaneous alignments in different parts of our bodies. In a single asana, we might be lengthening one part, relaxing another and deeply twisting yet another part - all while staying connected to our breath.
Both situations demand full awareness, both mental and bodily, working in synchronicity.
The same way yoga is all about staying present, the actual climb itself is a full experience of being completely present. Both necessitate a pin-pointed mind, focusing on the now. The now includes body position, energy moving through the body, muscle engagement, micro-movements, micro-adjustments, the environment, and of course calm steady breathing.
In yoga, as soon as attention drifts elsewhere, we bring it back to the present. We do so by bringing it back to the breath and the feelings in the body. When climbing, we’re simply not even allocated at the time to let attention be diverted elsewhere.
QUOTE: While on the safety of a mat, standing in a Virabhadrasana II, about two feet off the ground, we might find ourselves getting lost in our thoughts but, it seldom happens 20 feet up a wall.
Regardless, both help us stay fully connected in mind and body. The two also meet in the way they promote listening to our bodies. In yoga, we are encouraged to listen to our bodies as they arrive on the mat different, each day. We do so by knowing when to push and when to back off, as well as modifying and resting when needed.
For both, we use with the breath to work through difficult moments.
In yoga, this is difficult asanas. In climbing, we employ returning to breath when we find ourselves struggling and potentially beginning to face self-defeating thoughts or ones of fear/failure. For both, in most cases, the biggest obstacle is the mind.
QUOTE: Returning to breath and the state of flow, evokes loss of ego and self; a state in which thought dissolves, clearing a path through the difficulty.
Whether we are practicing on a yoga mat or climbing the side of a mountain, we are stepping outside of our minds.
While climbing we are leaving the negative, self-defeating thoughts on the ground and descending with a sense of release and relief. This feeling parallels to the sense of calm we exude lying in the sunshine of a savasana at the end of a yoga class. Both are dreamy like states. The effort put in during the climb or yoga practice gives us that sense of relief and release upon finishing. The flow state provides us with reconnection to the silent space where our truest self lives.
We are left less burdened by thoughts - lighter and brighter. Our bodies brimming with light and energy, an afterglow of bliss in which the miniscule problems of the morning are extinct and stress has dissipated.
In the new space created, flows gratitude for our bodies and a union with ourselves: mind, body and soul.