what is "crowding out" and how does it apply to our yoga practice?

Above is a photo I took from my early morning walk the other day. I can't remember the last time I got up extra early to go for a walk. I do wake up early most days to meditate or write or move my body. But, on this particular day, I wanted to start my day in nature. Yes, I was a little tired but it was so worth it. Watching how nature wakes up and witnessing the morning ritual of forest creatures enhanced the rest of my day. I walked down the wooded path with a mug of coffee in hand, surprised by how the birds congregated in the bushes, chatting with each other. Squirrels scurried up trees with pieces of corn in their mouths. This addition to my day not only shook things up but, I believe, also crowded out some of the potential stress or worry I could have encountered through the rest of my day.

Crowding out

There is a concept called crowding out that I learned about in nutrition school. The idea is that instead of cutting out the "bad" thing, you add something good and this will naturally and gradually crowd out the bad thing. For example, if you want to cut out sugar from your diet or curb your sugar cravings, you add something beneficial to your diet like more water or greens or sleep (lifestyle changes also play into it). Eventually, with consistent action of adding this in to your life, the sugar cravings will subside and the grip of attachment to sugar will lessen.

We can apply this concept to our yoga practice, specifically if the aim of yoga is to quiet the mind. In Patanjali's Yoga Sutra, he writes:

Yogas chitta vritti nirodha

which translates to: 

Yoga is the stilling of the changing states of the mind

A daunting task, to say the least. How are we supposed to still the mind when thoughts run rampant?

For me, this concept of crowding out takes some of the pressure out of it. Rather than focusing on stopping something, we can add an ingredient that is already there, ready to support us at a moment's notice. Some of my favorite ingredients?

Breath & mindfulness.

Eventually, these attainable yet deeply nourishing additions to your life will start to decrease the thoughts or, at least, decrease the attachment to/craving for thought.

There are other ingredients too, such as:

  • getting up ten minutes earlier to sit quietly and observe the breath
  • going for a walk in nature
  • more sleep
  • more water
  • self-care dates with yourself

We can apply crowding out in lots of ways. Want to crowd out fear? Add more love. Want to crowd out greed? Add more gratitude. Want to crowd out stress? Add one breathing exercise into your day. Want to crowd out anxiety or worry? Add more time in nature where peace and space abound.


So...

What are you wanting to crowd out? And what can you add in (ideally something small that you can do most days) to begin to crowd that thing out?

If you feel called to share, leave a comment below!