To me, yoga is not just moving on the mat, but a way of moving through life. Practicing yoga is a means to living a happier and more fulfilling life, if we are able to take the principles learned on the mat, off the mat.
In yoga we are taught to listen to our breath, honor our bodies, and pay attention to our reactions. Those principles harbor the ability to carry us through our days, making the good days greater and the bad days bearable.
We start off slow, and then boom my teacher throws in an extra long Utkatasana, which is literally defined as “intense pose.” I stop breathing, and start counting down. ‘How much longer’ I keep thinking. My thighs! My Thighs! She can’t possibly keep us here for that much longer can she?
This is also true when I teach this pose. Before reminding my students to breath, gripping, tightness, and anticipation for the pose to be over are very evident. When unwelcome situations arise our first instinct is to hold our breath until they are over.
One of my teachers once asked us while we were in a “hard” pose, “what would you have to do to be here all day?” Some suggestions I’ve collected: breath, soften my gaze, release my jaw, and relax my shoulders down my back and away from my ears.
The hard yoga pose can really be substituted for the hard parts of one’s day/month/year. Think about situations where you tend to tighten.
When something hard comes your way you can:
1) Tighten - get annoyed, angry, anxious holding on for dear life, waiting for whatever “it” is to be over, so you can breath again.
2) Soften – release, relax, and remember that whether you like it or not you are going through whatever it is we are going through, and the only way out is through.
Why not then, make the journey bearable, easier, and lighter?
The choice is up to you. You don’t always get to decide what happens to/around you, but you can decide how you react.
So the next time you are presented with a “hard pose” on the mat or off, ask yourself “Where can I soften?”
Photo credit: yogajournal.com