When we come to our yoga mats we tend to identify ourselves as an athlete, a computer worker, a mom, ________. Is it possible to just be here without that identification? As those labels, identifications, experiences change in our lives who we think we are shifts and turns. Is it possible to just notice the experience and not the colorings of our perception?
We can use these yoga practices to release and shed any of our judgments, viewpoints, beliefs about ourselves so that we can just simply be here now. The exhale, the movement, the poses, the breath, the intensity and the stillness help us to open our aperture so we can see more clearly – both the micro and macro.
We learn assumptions and judgments so that our nervous systems can relax. We create these labels so that we aren’t overwhelmed with every little thing that we come in contact with. But what benefits us can also be a hindrance. Is it possible to let those drop off the mind-like a bead of sweat? Even in peak moments on the four corners of our mat where we don’t think we can hold a pose anymore or even begin to get into the pose, can we bring our awareness in completely? Not whether it’s good or bad, if we like it or don’t, assuming it’s right or wrong, and/or without judging the experience we are having, That’s a completely different practice and one most of us are doing all the time. But can we let our assumptions and judgments drop?
For me, the breath is the key. The postures become a vehicle for me to transform on a deeper level. The internal landscape-my physiology, my mind and spirit. And in my experience it’s really just my ability to watch that. To be cognizant of what is shaping us. Is it possible to rest in that, react less to it and not wait for things to be better or different-a better yoga class or teacher, a time when there’s a better body, more money in the bank account, a season when our relationships are better or fill in the blank.
On our mats we can notice it in the physical sense in the openings we create in the body itself. When we pause we can notice what’s there. That we don’t have to get into a fight with our body, our tissues, or even our ideas. And even without having to analyze the alignment of anatomy is there a way to set ourselves up to work with ourselves instead of struggling and pushing. Another way to see flexibility in the yoga practice is that we adapt in a way that works with ourselves rather than against.
So often, we get into a fight with our own bodies. Can we simply (not to be confused with easily) open up to our experience? Whether we are relaxing our legs or engaging them, focusing on our neck, shoulders or back, coming out of the pose or deepening into the pose can we see it for what it is and allow it to create an opening. But an opening not just in our physiology, but also in the way in which we see through our eyes, our minds, and our hearts the experiences we are having.
As a student/teacher one of my greatest tools is the brief subtle changes and my ability to negotiate the practice and to meet it to feed myself. Maybe forearm balance works today and maybe it doesn’t but no expectations, no judgments.
In my asana practice (which is a great metaphor for my life) I find that when I test myself, the undoable often becomes doable. When I take myself out of judgment and expectation on my mat, then I can notice what the experience feels like in my body: strong and open or week and tight. Can I go all the way in and feel what is that sensation? And notice it is just a sensation. And not that I am a good or bad yogi, or a strong or weak athlete or whatever I create the judgment/assumption/belief to say about myself and the world around me.
The practice asks us again and again and again to not get so attached or reactive but rather to just simply notice it is as an experience.
And, in the end can we drop into the support of the earth where we can allow ourselves to be held and supported? We can feel the steadiness of the practice and let it come into the body allowing us to feel a space where clarity happens. The clarity I experience is often not full of fancy ideas, but rather the clarity of simply being. The clarity of the experience of the moment.
And when I walk from the practice, it’s not just my hips that are more open, but my mind, my heart and my eyes themselves.