Practicing Yoga in a conscious and present way is a great way to learn more about yourself and how you interact with and respond to life in general. These lessons aren’t always clear as day but when we begin to let go of the preconceived ideas of what we should be doing or look like in a yoga class and just become very aware of ourselves, our bodies and our response to the practice– as its happening in real time – we begin to be able to draw some parallels with how we respond in life outside of the studio.

One of the very interesting lessons yoga has brought home to me is the way in which I expend energy. Noticing where energy is concentrated or stuck, and then being able and willing to move it around is one of the privileges of the yoga practice – and one of the privileges of being human and exercising choice. The choice comes after awareness of what is actually happening in our bodies and in our lives and so practicing being truly present for ourselves is of crucial importance.

Take for example a high lunge where we’re normally blasting energy through the front leg, carrying all the weight of our bodies and just hanging in there hoping it will be over soon. We tense up holding on to the position, trying to balance and not fall to the side for fear of a domino effect of yogis toppling all over each other (see how worrying about something that hasn’t even happened yet takes you out of the present moment?). In this posture there are quite a few other parts of the body to shift awareness and focus to in order to alleviate the tension, i.e. the concentration of energy in that front leg. Moving the energy around will mean your front leg won’t fatigue as quickly and the posture can be held for a much longer period of time – giving you even more of the benefit. Let me illustrate: while in your high lunge, shift your focus to the back leg – pushing the back heel away from you and straightening out the back leg puts strength into that leg that anchors you down and assists in the balancing element of the posture. This in turn means a huge relief in the front leg. Tucking the tailbone down and lifting your belly takes a lot of weight out of the front leg as your upper body now uses its own energy to hold itself up and ‘be light’ rather than bearing more weight onto the legs. Firing up the arms and blasting energy through both hands, also shifts energy away from the legs and helps to give your upper body the feather quality of being light and easy to hold up. Softening your face frees up some energy to expend in more useful places rather than just being wasted on something that makes no difference to the pose whatsoever….to just name a few.

So what does this teach us about our responses in real life?

We all have situations in our lives where we feel our attention or energy is being drawn to certain aspects and pulled away from others. We need a daily reminder that nothing is drawn, nothing is taken, nothing is given – everything is a choice that we make. In the high lunge you place your energy in the front leg and hope it will be over soon…and if the situation lasts the front leg gets into trouble – just as you do, when situations you are ‘drawn’ to don’t resolve and you exercise no choice of withdrawing energy or finding ways of supporting yourself in these situations. Someone grates you, wrongs you, angers you and so your energy is focused on this particular situation/person. The focus of energy is a magnet for more energy meaning that a situation (often negative or difficult) becomes all consuming. Losing sight of the ability to choose whether to invest further in this energy, or to withdraw, move it around, diffuse its intensity – results in lots of dissatisfaction, internal civil wars and general draining of vital energy. This in essence is completely unnecessary and could be prevented if we were able to be very present for ourselves at all times – always choosing, consciously, mindfully, how we will expend energy, and how we can conserve it. If we can consciously be aware of the energy sappers – and taking charge!

Allowing a concentration of negative energy such as anger or resentment to build up usually leads to some chronic pain, illness or form of depletion – as we all well know. In that sense, redistributing energy and rebalancing attention from our obsessions with things that don’t necessarily serve us, is an act of healing towards ourselves and our bodies. We can also help our bodies last much longer by shifting the energy around, making it lighter, not being so obsessed and focused on one single way of looking at or doing something. Part of this is letting go of the need to manage all qualities of our experience as well as different opinions for different people. Recognising that some of what we want to control is not in fact OURS actually frees up your body and mind of so much unnecessary tension. Someone comes at us and we get so stuck in that place where it hurts that we fail to see any options – least of all letting go of what we can’t control – and taking charge of our response to that which is not ours.

Learning to move energy around in this way, getting unstuck in places where it hurts, places where we hold on to beliefs and ideas that really serves no one including ourselves, is a way of also starting to live more compassionately towards the world. Sharing compassion will result in receiving compassion and hey – what do you know – the world becomes a kinder place. Big change starts with the change in you so don’t underestimate the power and magnitude of this stuff.

So for the benefit of all of us in your world and outside, entertain the possibility of welcoming back into your heart the people you have tossed out, called names, written off. You don’t have to see them or even be with them, but as an option, instead of holding them so far away, release some of that energy you’re using to do so, for your own healing.

When you have hate in your body for anyone, remember that that hate lives in your body…not theirs.