As always with yoga – the lessons on the mat are so relevant to your life out there. Seeing the journeys people go on during their practice really is like seeing their entire lives unfold symbolically. People often come to say that after even a single session of yoga or a month of yoga classes, they have learnt more patience with others (because they learnt to be patient with themselves when they saw how restricted their body was), they have become more relaxed and able to stay calm during stressful periods (because they learnt to use their breath to calm their nervous system), their back feels great and they have loads more energy (because they have learnt to move with ease in the practice instead of force – depleting all energy and tensing up the entire back). The list goes on and on. Most importantly for here and now though – learning the ability to move with ease. Finding ease in a posture and finding ease in the way in which you engage with the world on a day-to-day basis is quite simply one of the most valuable lessons and skills you will ever learn.
Many of my students have fallen out of postures (and some to the ground) laughing, when I – while they are hanging mid air in some obscure balancing pose – reminded or rather, urged them to ‘find the ease in the pose’. It seems such a foreign concept to ‘find ease’ when you are trying so very, very hard to just get into, and hold on to this obscure position. It seems foreign because it is. There is no ease with forcing, no ease in trying too hard and no ease in trying to reach just an end goal with no consideration of what the journey is about. Too many scenarios like this, where we force and push and disregard our ability to achieve whatever we want with grace and ease, and we end up a stress ball, tense and restricted with much less capacity to do all the amazing things we are capable of doing. Finding the ease on the other hand leaves you with tons more energy to expand, achieve more than you expected, and perhaps (shock horror) even enjoy it while you’re at it. Some of my students have found that place – that moment when you just let go in a posture – even when it is tough. They have had the precious moment of staying ‘sweet’, breathing and letting go of the unnecessary tension – and truly seeing what their body is capable of when you let go and let it move. Afterwards these students sat in awe of their bodies, and the dramatic difference moving with ‘ease’ brought to the depth with which they were able to expand in the pose.
The ways in which yoga will help you move with ease and achieve more:
Yoga teaches you to be much more aware of and tuned in to your body and the tension that it holds for you every day. We live in a day and age where tension is the norm. Ease (relaxation/softness) has become something we work on and seek to find through classes such as yoga. We might be relaxing in front of the TV or chilling out at home – even when we are sleeping, the tension still sits in our muscles – day in and day out. The result – you and me functioning with tension, effort, a feeling of having to force, try, just see it through, just keep going, shouldering on. This isn’t moving with ease. This is not how we function to our full potential. Recognizing tension in your body will give you the opportunity to purposefully dissolve it – let it go. Perhaps you will learn to do this firstly in a yoga class and then perhaps in your daily life – in difficult encounters at work, in relationships with loved ones. Being able to let unnecessary tension go will free you up to be yourself. Tension isn’t who you are – it’s something the way we live added and it’s not always the most attractive addition. Notice it. Dissolve it. Move with ease.
Moving and responding to how you feel
I always tell my students that your yoga practice is your time – your time to do what makes you feel good. We practice yoga because it makes us feel damn good, remember? I always encourage checking in with the body – how are you feeling – aches, pains, fatigue? Respond to it. Accept that it is there and do what your body needs you to do. It won’t always mean backing off and it won’t always mean working harder. You need to learn to know what your body needs and respond to it in a caring and considerate way. How often do we feel like we live our lives to keep other people happy? How often do we feel we need to suppress resentment for not being able to do what we need, or what feels good for us. We have been conditioned to think that disregarding ourselves and just living for others is GOOD. It’s not. Living with a disregard for what you need will lead to you running on empty. Being empty will make it much more difficult to give to anyone around you. Disregarding your own needs will lead to anger and resentment. Anger and resentment sits as tension in your body and unaddressed tension and unaddressed emotions lead to very serious illness. Learning to listen to your body and fulfilling your own needs is crucial to keep it easy, keep yourself and everyone around you happy, nourished and fulfilled. Not just that – it’s essential to keep you healthy but more on that topic another time.
Learn to soften yourself
Awareness is pointless unless you learn what to do when you gain the awareness. Found the tension – now what to do with it? Yoga will teach you to soften yourself, firstly with your breath – before you’ve even started moving, and practicing to soften yourself when you are engaged in various postures of different degrees of difficulty.
Stress and tension exist. It is there and it is part of life. Practicing ease through your yoga practice is a way to learn to let that tension move in, through and out of your body without debilitating/limiting you. It’s to teach you not to get stuck on tension. It’s to show you that once you noticed the tension as a form of energy – you can move that energy around, dissolve it, reduce the acuteness of it, and return to your natural state – which is ease.
So through sometimes very difficult postures you begin to see that even in this really challenging ‘situation’ coming back to a place of ease helps to access this posture – or enjoy it, or live through it without any major trauma!
Just like you go further in a posture with ease, you achieve more in life when you approach it with ease. Can you soften the tension today and begin to see how much more fulfilling a life without force can be? Take a few deep breaths – repeat all day. You’re softer already ?