Since the day after Christmas, I have been a yoga fiend. Recently I finished a 21-day challenge with 17 days of yoga. Yea me! Not only has my practice helped with my body, but as in true yoga, it is improving my mind, actions and outlook. The concept is that the things we learn on the yoga mat are what we bring into our daily lives to make it better.
One big aha I had the other day is about strength and release. When I first returned to my yoga practice, I was out. of. shape. It had been years since I did yoga and months since I did any exercise. My body forgot what it was like to be used. At the first few classes, we would be put into one of the poses and told to hold the pose for a few breaths. As I tried to hold the pose, my legs would shake. Three breaths seemed like an eternity. I believed that I was not strong enough to do the pose. But I was wrong.
I wasn’t relaxed enough.
Last week I was working with my favorite instructor who likes to push me further and further into my practice. I got into a deep pose and was told to hold it. My leg began to shake like it did during the first few classes I took. I told the instructor that I was not strong enough yet to do the pose. He corrected me. It was not strength I was missing, but flexibility. My leg was shaking because my leg was too tight. What I needed to do was to release in order to find the strength to hold the pose smoothly.
This blew my mind.
Up until then my practice on the mat – and in life – was to push through the pain. I am a penguin ever marching to and from sea to survive. I have persistence and drive. I power through. In yoga, and in much of my life, trying to be too strong is actually a weakness. In my toughness, I was hardened and inflexible. I would exhaust myself, and sometimes those around me. As I released my Type A, much of this toughness dissipated. But drive, strength, and hardened toughness are still my unconscious go-to behaviors when I am faced with a challenge.
Taking my lesson from the mat to my life, I learned that it helps to learn to let go. When things are tough, I need to release my fear, my doggedness, my rigidity. Instead of putting up a shield and preparing to fight, I am better served by relaxing into the conflict. When I notice myself toughening up, I intend to release the tension in my body and the walls in my mind. Instead of falling into my go-to drive, I will now ease into the strength that comes in stillness.
Spend this week noticing when you are tense. What triggered you? What are you trying to push yourself through? Then gently release the tension – in your body and mind. Maintain the core of your strength but let your muscles and attitude relax. See if in this state of ease that things are not resolved easily and efficiently – and more enjoyable way.