The Yoga Paradox...
This January, we have been focusing on 'detoxing'. Deep twists, abdominal massage, inversions and heat building sequences all to help support the body's - very capable, and very natural ability - to rid the body of excess ( toxins, cake, energy, tension, stress). We focused on coming back into our practice and bodies after the indulgences of the festive season, and hopefully you're feeling better for it. Well done for showing up for yourselves.
But as we know, ( or should know) yoga is not just about the physical body. It's not about being a gymnast and being a contortionist ( sorry instagram!) It's about who we are in all realms of our being. So, let's not forget to work on the spiritual, mental emotional realm as well. Whilst we may be coming to the mat to feel lighter in our bodies, let's come to the mat to feel lighter in who we are as a whole. Let's look at what we could shift, how we could cleanse some negative or hindering thought patterns.
Let's look at our struggle on the mat. Who here has felt like the tin man at least once in your practice? (MEEEEE!) Yes, I too feel like the tin man, or at least catch myself thinking what he's thinking as I attempt a level 3 class, or try to do a full ashtanga class even. It's so easy to push, pull, grunt our way through our practices - when we are so caught up in the end result, in achieving. We confuse our practice of being in union with where we are, with getting somewhere we think we need to be.
Mindfulness teaches us to be where we are, entirely, with the good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly - with non-judgmental awareness. To just be where we are, fully, non - striving and a willingness to accept whatever happens. When we are not practicing in this way, we try to force the situation to change. Our lovely ego takes over and we clench our jaws, clench our butts, hold the breath, and make a face like we are in labor. I see it all the time, and yes, I notice it in me too. As a teacher, I need to ensure I am always practicing, and pushing my limits, challenging myself, growing. This is healthy. Push your limits, challenge yourself. This is how we change and develop.
Here's the paradox.
Yoga DOES bring about change and transformation! But how can we both challenge ourselves and be non- striving? We do it with mindfulness. We find the ease in the challenge. If it's hard, except that it's hard. Don't cling on to getting it right. Attempt with compassion. Look for signs of grasping, back off and try again. Be patient - mastery takes times, years, a lifetime. Buckle up. It's going to be a long ride.
One day I will hold a forearm stand ( pincha mayurasana) or jump through to seat, but not right now, not today. When I catch myself striving to hard for it - I have to become aware of the striving - the frustration - then I have to get over it, accept where I am today and find the peace in that. Then, over time, with lots of non- striving practice, change happens. Not because I forced it, but because I was willing, I was patient, but I was persistent in the practice
Doing the work on our natural tendency to always want more, and want it instantly, that's the advanced practice. To look honestly at our slight obsession with always getting it right, being the best, 'keeping up with the Jones's', that's the stuff of real transformation. We don't need more. Look with gratitude at what you have right now, there are a lot of people who can't do what you can easily do. Too much neurosis about your progression is unproductive.
Let's show up on our mats with no agenda. Be in the pose with the willingness to accept we may not be 'picture perfect' and allow that to be fantastic! When we truly learn the art of letting go - that's when things come easily to us, when we hold on with too much force, too much effort- we create more friction and separation. It's not that we don't use effort, that we don't continue to try - it's using the right effort, from the right intent.
With practice, comes progression. Let's first learn the art of patience.