Thoughts on Flexibility
By Laura Mills
A common theme in yoga classes is moving forward, how we need to open ourselves to new paths if we want to grow. But even in the smallest, day-to-day sense, and even as a serious yogi, I have always been one who struggles whenever my routine changes. Whether it occurs by necessity or the suggestion of my husband or a friend—even if it’s a tiny, pleasant deviation like foregoing laundry for hiking on a Saturday afternoon or reading a good book for an extra half-hour before bed—I experience aggravation at whatever remains unfinished, which at some level prohibits me from totally enjoying myself.
Thankfully, little by little I am still moving forward. IF I breathe; IF I take a moment to reassure myself that the world won’t end if I don’t finish the laundry (for example) in the next two hours; IF I recall a moment on my mat when I felt my practice deepen because I stayed present…. If I take these actions, I find much more ease in balancing the new with the “same old.” Trying alternate paths, such as getting to that extra yoga class, accompanying my husband on a surprise lunch out, or joining a friend for a last-minute conversation, not only makes the present more pleasant, but it also adds to my store of happy times to treasure as I grow.
Have a wonderful, flexible day today.
DO OVER BY GUEST BLOGGER LAURA MILLS
Do Over By Laura Mills
Whether writing a yoga class or an essay, I never erase. Not that I don’t make mistakes, but when I do I scratch them out, content with the messier route in my urgency to shape what I feel is better work. People who glimpse my notes and journals don’t believe I make sense of them, littered as they are with scribbles and swirls. But somehow I do, moving forward after difficult moments to produce something that satisfies me.
I wish moving forward were that easy for me off-paper.
In eight months of teaching yoga, I’ve frequently finished a class feeling less-than-100%. Maybe the sequence didn’t flow as smoothly as I intended, maybe I left too little time for Savasana, maybe the music didn’t compliment the flow, maybe I philosophized too much. And immediately after such a class, I‘ve struggled not to say to my students, “No, wait! Come back! I can do better!” I want to try again, to produce a better version, and I want to do it right away—but of course, I can only hope the same students attend my next class and see me in what I vow will be better form.
I don’t believe this feeling is unique to new yoga teachers, but I do hope it occurs less frequently with time. I wonder how long I will teach before I rarely second-guess myself. I wonder how long I will teach before the chance is excellent that at the end of my next class I’ll be satisfied. For now, while I grapple with my confidence, I remind myself that when challenged on the mat we slow down, breathe and re-center. It's a familiar, easier-said-than-done practice, one that my own yoga teachers have taught me over and over and one that I now teach my students. Instead of pushing ahead in a hurry, we pause and tune back in, return to our natural rhythm, and then move forward refreshed. This lesson impacted me hugely when I first started practicing, a few years ago at a time when I was urgently—and unsuccessfully—attempting to push my way through the effects of a personal tragedy. Like so many yogis before me, the patience and self-care I met on the mat flowed into the rest of my life, and with time and practice, eventually I was able to gently start again and progress towards the future with a newly-centered spirit.
Now, in my role as yoga teacher, after any less-than-100% class I experience that same initial urgency. I want so badly to serve my students in the best way possible, to live up to the credentials I now possess. When I feel a class falls short, I want to go back and improve it immediately…but instead, like I do on the mat, I know I must remember to slow down and re-center, tapping into that patience and self-care that has served me so well in yoga practice and elsewhere.
I know I have everything I need to teach yoga well; I also know I judge myself more critically than anyone else ever could. As 2011 begins, I will work on tending my confidence and encouraging it to thrive. I will also remind myself with love that every yoga teacher, new or otherwise, experiences difficult moments now and then. Unlike in writing, we can’t erase those moments even if we want to—but if we slow down and re-center we can, at least in a way, scratch them out and make them not matter so much. Then we can move forward, refreshed, into our next class, onto a fresh page.
MOVING IS KNOWN AS A PRETTY STRESSFUL EVENT
Guest Blogging Today is Sarah Galla
Generally speaking, moving is known as a pretty stressful event. And what better way to relieve stress than with yoga!
Well, I got to practice what I preach firsthand recently. My husband, Tom, my 7 month old daughter, Sydney, and I all just moved into a new home in Arlington Heights. However, it wasnít that simple. We were supposed to close on a Friday, May 22nd, and at the closing, the lender introduced new questions and pulled the loan. Needless to say, we were stunned and numerous thoughts ran through our head. Would we lose the home? Would we lose our earnest money? Would we lose our loan completely? Would we lose the time we had spent finding this home? Would we lose our sanity having to live out of boxes for an unknown amount of time? Then I noticed a theme to my questions: fear of loss.
I had absolutely left faith out of the equation. I have done countless classes surrounding this very prevalent theme and now it was time for me to put my yoga into action. The asanas, or poses, while an important part of yoga, they are only a piece of the whole. I needed to turn to my other yogic tools. I needed to focus on my breath, the one element to which I can always return. And right there the tide changed. By focusing on that breath, the inhales and exhales became longer and deeper. This led my muscles to relax. I had to trust that all was as it should be. Even though I knew I had to trust, it was challenging for me to put into action. This was especially true because the obstacles didnít end there.
The next week we were contacted by the same lender after we had chosen a different lender with whom to work for our deadline of June 5th to hold onto the house. The old lender promised to close us that Tuesday the 26th. Then Wednesday. Then Thursday. Then Friday. Finally, we were done and said unless we were given a firm yes or no within the next hour, we were walking Ė which was taking a leap of faith right there! Well, it came through and we ended up closing the following Tuesday, June 2nd.
There are lessons for us in everything. Should we choose to take the coursework and learn what it is we need to learn, about others, about ourselves, about life, we can move to the next piece. I can understand that. What I am still grasping is that the learning never ends and I will not graduate from life. There will always be lessons, some more challenging than others. The true test is not the actual lesson itself, but actually it is the way I respond. It is always a matter of choice of perspective. I say this in all truth because these last two weeks were not easy. I had a lot of questions that had to remain unanswered; a tense jaw I had to consciously and frequently release; shoulders I had to purposely drag away from my ears and a breath that had to fight to be taken. Although, these were things to which I could and did consciously work to bring awareness. It was my choice how I responded. I had to trust that it would work out the way it was supposed to. The hardest part of that acceptance was that it may be the way it was supposed to be, but that may not be the way I wanted. For me, for today, I choose to see the perspective in which I can release the fear of loss. Sometimes I can truly embrace my faith in the Universe. This situation was a struggle for me. Yet, it came down to faith or fear. I chose the option that gave me the freedom to breathe.