Can closing your eyes lead to inner peace?
Over the last five years, I’ve been on my very own yoga journey…
Having children, getting to know my new body each time… reflecting on what I seek from my physical practice as well as how I approach life and the values I live by… pondering on how yoga can enhance being a mum… prioritising the different aspects of my life and what I have time for in the day… whether it’s asana (the physical practice of poses), pranayama (breathing), dharana (meditation) or going to bed at 8pm…
Lots of food for thought.
What I’m in the mood for often varies from day to day. If I’ve had a manic day then a physically energetic Vinyasa class might be the tonic, or a peaceful, quiet Yin class might be just right, but sometimes I need to run a bubble bath and lie still with my eyes closed. It varies and changes. Sometimes, I need to avoid placing added pressure on myself - I need to tuck my gorgeous little boys into bed and simply be.
But in our quest for calm, I’m intrigued by how closing the eyes, and taking away this prominent sense, can enhance sensations and awareness of nuances in the body, ultimately helping us to remain more present, and to keep that endless to-do list at bay.
I’ve purposefully experimented with this a few times in the last week so I’d like to share my observations. I specifically wanted to explore how closing my eyes could enhance my practice and allow me to observe the fluctuations within myself more acutely. And is it possible to find that inner peace during a Yang practice as well as a Yin?
I treated myself to a restorative event with Rosie (roseannayoga), a yin class with Holly (balanceandbreathe) at Jasmine Yoga and a dynamic vinyasa class with Jo (my mum), at Jasmine Yoga. What a delightful week!
From the very start, Rosie encouraged us to close our eyes, and if we wished to, we could keep them closed for the whole two hours. I decided there and then to do this. I really wanted to limit awareness of others, to be completely within myself and to ensure my ego didn’t surface – I wanted to avoid any pushing and force with my body, just respect for where it wanted to rest in each pose that evening. She referenced our thoughts as one layer, beneath which lies sensation, followed by the breath. I liked this triad. Drawing my awareness to the rise and fall of the body as I breathe has always felt quite hypnotic for me – particularly the rise and fall of my abdomen. It’s a very soothing, safe sensation and in my body, I notice a heaviness, a sinking, a melting... The rise and fall acts almost like a gentle clock, tick-tock, tick-tock, measuring time, as time ceases to exist. I often wonder how the sensation of relaxation differs – does it feel heavy for you? Or light? Warm? Tingly? Numb? Something else? Closing your eyes during savasana or yin might well feel rather natural for many people, but I enjoyed keeping my eyes closed during the transitions… listening to the cues (which were very clear and concise) and moving in and out of the pose slowly, without any urgency. It was like being wrapped in a warm blanket. I definitely felt a deep sense of peace and calmness. My attention had undoubtedly wandered from time to time, but by and large, I’d remained very present in this bubble of comfort for two blissful hours.
It was a similar picture in Holly’s beautiful yin class – I loved her choice of poses – some slightly unusual, like a certain shoulder stretch on the tummy. Her voice was so calming and as this class was 7.45-8.45pm, I became slightly aware of the changing light behind my closed eyelids and the dancing patterns and shapes. In this sequence, there were a number of poses we repeated on the other side of the body. Having my eyes closed made me far more aware of differing sensations in my hips particularly. I ensured that all the props were close and adjusted at the start of each pose, looking for comfort and then stillness. It was a real effort to come up to sitting at the end of savasana – I could have simply nodded off. If only there was a magic wand to transport us home!
With dynamic, it was a creative wrist-free practice so no downdogs or chaturangas….!! Jo (sounds funny calling her that instead of ‘mum’ haha) encouraged us to explore shapes within our own bodies and find the pose that suited us. She emphasised the importance of Ahimsa (coming from a place of kindness & love, without harm). It was incredibly intense on the quads, glutes and core. You could hear a pin drop in the room with the class concentrating on the sequence that involved transitions between standing staff and warrior 3, lots of chair pose, and flying half moon. Whilst I closed my eyes at certain points, I needed to focus on a Drishti (an unmoving focal point) to help my balance, and having the eyes closed just felt a little too vulnerable. But I guess, the focus on the vinyasa sequence was so intense that it meant my attention couldn’t possibly be anywhere else – it was focused and acute.
Closing the eyes is an interesting element to experiment with. It won’t be for everyone, but I enjoyed approaching the different classes with curiosity, and noticing the subtleties and fluctuations within myself.
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