Yoga is simple. It is the union of mind and body through breath. In reality, it is challenging. It is difficult to stay wholly present in your mind and body in a world where multi-tasking is considered a prized skill. Indeed even as I type, there are 7 windows open on my desktop, I am drinking tea, thinking about this evening's class sequence and trying to ignore the mountain of laundry that needs to be done! And then I look at Mylo. This handsome mutt is my 3 year old Labrador. Mylo is always happy. Always! Yoga is being at ease and ultimately happy in your own skin. I have learned some of the most valuable yoga lessons from this happy hound!
1. Rest - Mylo spends a considerable amount of his day snoozing. He is the master of the power nap! When a friend is tired and run down, our first instinct is to encourage rest and relaxation . When it comes to ourselves we splash water on our face, have a coffee and power through. Mylo rests when he is tired. Listen to your body and take some down time when you need it. This does not necessarily mean taking a nap. Maybe go for a stroll instead of a run. Watch a good movie instead of cleaning the house. Take a yin or restorative yoga class instead of your usual sweaty power vinyasa session. Take a child's pose in class when you need to. And when bedtime comes turn off the laptop, the tablet, the phone and the TV and get a proper nights sleep. Rest is key to a healthy and happy life.
2. Play - Mylo loves to play. When there is a tennis ball in sight, he has boundless energy. He is sociable with other dogs and loves nothing more than a good swim and a sprint on the beach. A dog's energy levels are highest in early morning and late evening. It is not a coincidence that yoga is best practiced in the morning and late at night. Now that it is bright a little earlier in the mornings, maybe start an energy boosting morning practice. They are called sun salutations for a reason! At night, aid restful sleep by taking a few minutes to do a few restful poses or a calming mediation before bed. Yoga is a very personal practice. It is wonderful to practice alone but it is also hugely beneficial to practice in and contribute to the energy of a group class. It is encourages us to be sociable even in silence. There are times when you might feel like running around the park like a lunatic (think Phoebe in Friends!!). Do it! Don't stop and think about who is looking. Mylo doesn't.
3. Stretch - Mylo does his own version of downward facing dog and upward facing dog more times in one day than I can count. He instinctively knows when to stretch out his muscles, connective tissue and joints to stay limber and tension free. Yoga isn't confined to the yoga mat. If you need a good old stretch at any stage during the day go for it. Your body will thank you!
4. Love Unconditionally - Mylo greets everyone, both our 4 legged and 2 legged friends with equal enthusiasm. He is ridiculously friendly. His wagging tail doesn't lie. Mylo treats everyone with the same openness and respect. He doesn't judge. Be open and generous with your time. Respect everyone equally. Take the time to smile at strangers! It might change someone's day for the better.
5. Be Present - Mylo lives his life wholly in the present moment. A dog is incapable of living the past and worrying about the future. While dogs have certain learned behaviours though positive and negative associations, they live in the moment. Mylo lives in the now and is ridiculously happy. The pertinence of our yoga practice lies in its mindfulness and the ability to be present in any situation either on or off the mat. This is the most challenging part for us humans but it is the most valuable lesson of all.
You don't need to be a dog lover or owner to appreciate these yoga and life lessons. Thanks Mylo! Time for a walk I feel...