As a yoga teacher, I spend a lot of time learning about the proper alignment of a poses; where to place you feet, point your toes, which way to rotate your arms and legs. I was taught the “right” alignment of poses. In my own practice, all this knowledge resulted in a mind full of information. When I practiced, the voice in my head was loud and critical “ is my foot in the right place, maybe, I should be sitting back more, I need to practice more, I need to get that knee back, twist more. Work hard, work harder, focus more, God I’m exhausted, how long are we staying here.” Basically I practiced the same way I did when I was lifting weights and running. Really hard effort, disciplining and forcing my body was the way to achieve. Harder and faster was the mantra.
And yet when a serious illness brought me to yoga, my intention was to feel better in my body, to feel good about myself, to feel more ease, more calmness, more flow, more connection.
Yoga means to connect to “yoke” body, mind and spirit, I wasn’t sure about my spirit, but I knew there was a war going on between my body and mind. Declaring a peace treat didn’t come easily. In one two hour hot power class about 15 minutes in, when my body, screamed to me “stop” Dropping to the matt in child’s pose, I stayed there for most of the class. In that moment, I realized, I was not listening to what my body needed; I was fighting myself and creating my own suffering. Accepting where my body was and what it needed, I relaxed and everything shifted.
Feeling good in my body and finding ease, and connection was not about giving more effort, it was about relaxing into what is. My mind began to relax as I tuned in more to how I felt and reached for what felt good. Being effortless brought me what I came to yoga seeking, ease, connection, flow, feeling good. Interestingly, it didn’t mean I did less yoga, but when I practiced with an intention to feel good, I began to really tune into how I felt, I modified when a pose didn’t feel good, let go of how I “should” look. Living in my body became easier and more joy filled.
Next time you find yourself in that space of a busy critical voice telling you, you need to work harder, work faster; tune into what your feeling and ask what you need. In being effortless, you may be surprised what you find.
Love and Light Joanne