Yoga During Times of Change
Photo Credit: j / f / photos
During the past few months, life as I know it has changed dramatically. Starting with a drive across the country that tightened my hamstrings and stressed out my hip-flexors, I ended up subletting a room in a house that did not, to my dismay, have a designated yoga area. Then came the job search, with ups and downs that took a mental and emotional toll on me. Finding the time and focus necessary to stay committed to my yoga practice was an extra challenge that iced my perfectly overwhelming transition cake.
With days of practicing asana in familiar spaces behind me, and with less time to get into my physical body, I still remained committed to getting on my mat each day. With my ancient yoga scriptures packed away inside a plastic storage container, I managed to rely on the teachings of yoga to stay plugged into my highest self. How did I do it you ask? Quite simply, I gave in to the concept of yoga as practice. Here is what I learned in my process:
1. First and foremost, love yourself. The art of self-compassion is a toughie. It requires that we tactfully and lovingly approach our ego, and release its desperate grasp on our self-concept, as if to place it like a baby in a crib while explaining that “Mommy needs a break.” I did this a lot when my days didn’t go exactly the way I had decided it should beforehand. When I caught my ego acting like a child, I took the opportunity to surrender into Child’s Pose (Balasana) or relax into Viparita Karani (Legs up the Wall Pose). I once heard a friend say that Balasana could be considered an advanced posture because it requires that we let go into the necessary gift of self care, something not easy for many of us. What began as a difficult transition period has become a lifelong reminder to follow the voice that encourages self-love and kindness, and to give myself a break when I need it.
2. Allow your asanas to evolve with your circumstances. When your handstands feel unstable and your back bends feel more like back-crunchers, remember the foundational observances of the Yamas, the first of the eight limbs, which offer us guidelines for our yoga practice. For instance, the concept of Satya reminds us to honor our truth, even if our truth today looks different than it has in the past. Aparigraha reminds us to let go of that which we don’t need. During my move, I longed for asanas that provided routine and comfort over spontaneity and challenge, so I followed my intuition and found steadiness and familiarity in poses like Warrior One and Five-Pointed Star. During my asana practice, I brought my awareness to Vyana Vayu, which helped me radiate strength and expansiveness within while feeling grounded and steady. This combination fed me as I continued plunging forward into the unknown.
3. Above all, trust your inner wisdom. I mentioned that all of my yoga texts and anatomy books were in storage for several weeks, inaccessible to me during the time I thought I would need them the most. This turned out to be my greatest gift. Instead of using Patanjali’s words to guide my meditations, I found my own. In a world where we constantly turn to the internet and smartphones for instant answers to everything, I was reminded of the value of simply pausing in contemplation as a way to become familiar with our own inner guidance system. Learning to trust oneself is perhaps the most valuable gift a yoga practice can bring.
When you’re moving through times of change and transition, what helps you stay committed to your yoga practice?