Practice on the yoga mat is a microcosm of our life, our way of being in the world. We get to see how we handle a challenge, a little stress. Do we get anxious or angry? Do we give up or push harder?
I see all of the approaches as a teacher. I watch some students use sheer determination and force and watch others drift off and dissociate from the moment. I see the when-is-this-pose-going-to-be- over looks and this-is-not-what-I-wanted- today glares.
So, I sigh. And they sigh. I smile and they follow. I make a joke and laughter lightens the air. I say, “Breathe.”
Not because we’re supposed to say that as yoga teachers but because when we focus on the breath, when we sigh, when we smile or laugh, we relax.
And when we relax we progress—which is perhaps yoga’s greatest lesson. The body lets go. The edge, where we can open to in a pose, moves.
It doesn’t move when we compare and strive and struggle to be like our teacher or the person next door, on the mat or in life. I see new students try hard and I get it, I used to try hard too. I wanted to do the arm balance with my legs here or there. My foot went to my forehead but wouldn’t go behind. My heels would not touch the floor in downward dog. Now I don’t care. And they do.
I get to see the students who get this lesson become softer, more pliable, more happy. They start to flow with yoga, and with life and I have the honor of witnessing people standing taller, walking through time and space with more grace and ease. “They got it,” I think to myself.
When we relax we progress.
All manner of options open to us. Wisdom is allowed in and not overtaken by the need to know or the need to show that we know. Intuition and a felt sense of certainty in the body are allowed to lead us forward and fear is left behind. Clarity is all that remains.
And when feelings come they are seen and welcomed, they are given enough room to diffuse and then they are gone. We don’t tighten around them and hold them in place like a boa constrictor preparing to consume its prey. Instead ,we move on. The next feeling comes, or thought, or inspired idea. When we relax, we get to witness this fascinating dance called life.
Our day to day tasks, our work, can be a joy of our life. Each person we are privileged to talk to or serve or collaborate with becomes an angel in disguise bringing gifts. Some are wrapped beautifully and some are surprising but they are gifts all the same, because our edges are softer, more translucent. We’re letting it all in, when we relax.
Notice. Notice on the mat. The difference between striving and allowing. Compare the results of force and gentleness. Let the mat be the testing ground. See how it goes.
If gentleness and relaxation advance your practice, dare to live off the mat without worry and in peace.
Auhtor: Reverend Lisa Sarick
Editor: Katarina Tavčar
Photo: Anne Wu/Flickr