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The past few weeks have brought a lot of change into my life. It’s all good, exciting movement, but it’s the result of a series of scary steps forward that leave me feeling like I’m walking the plank and not sure if I’ll sink or swim. One of the best ways I’ve learned to deal with transition is by amping up my yoga practice. For me, the subtle details I focus on in my asanas translate naturally to metaphors for lessons I’m trying to master in everyday life.
In yoga, we’re taught to ground down through the feet and work our way up in order to sync our movement and breath. In that order, here are a few things I think about during my poses and their relationship to everyday life:
1. Anchor down.
Ground yourself through your feet by flexing the heals, lifting the knees, and strengthening the thighs to feel balanced at your root. That stability can be applied to every uncomfortable situation, because this journey isn't about finding a permanent way to avoid life’s hurdles; it’s about figuring out how to go through them without breaking.
2. Sink into your foundation.
Once you feel steady, hold it and breathe. Think about full, rounded breaths. Try four inhales and four exhales to slow everything down. Let the awareness of your breath keep you feeling full and strong so that you're empowered to step outside your comfort zone, attempt new levels in poses, and be fearless in life.
3. Engage the core.
Tighten from the very bottom, below your navel. Lift the abdominals up, roll the pelvic in, and lengthen. Do that all at once, inhale, and exhale without losing the connection. Practicing engaging these muscles will train the body to do it naturally so eventually we can suck the navel into the lower abs at all times. It eliminates lower back pain and a builds a strong core for life which helps you pay attention and feel confident trusting your own instincts.
4. Accept your situation.
Some poses are less comfortable than others depending on which muscles you hold stress in the most. Yoga is about being able to recognize where you are and remaining flexible with yourself. Be compassionate with your body; every day is different. Try to change the inner dialogue from fear of failure and limiting beliefs to positive self-talk about being proud of who and where you are.
5. Sink a little deeper.
When you want to quit because something is too hard, keep going. That’s what makes you stronger mentally, and that’s the power that you need to succeed at everything in life. If you can push just a drop past the comfort zone, you open up space for growth and improvement. Plus, if you fall on your face the first time, it can only get easier!
6. Practice patience.
Adjust your relationship with time. Instead of rushing to get out NOW, stay right where you are a bit longer. Let the energy of this moment come and go while you enjoy it.
7. Be the witness.
Notice all of your sensations. What comes up in your mind? What feels good and why? What hurts? Where do you start to get frustrated with yourself? Where do you start to compare yourself to others in the class? How does it all tie together? Call out the ego in a sympathetic way. That means simple awareness without judgment. Notice the facts and let go.
Yoga is a moving meditation. You want the negative stuff to surface so that it can be released. Get out of your own way and just flow. Once you find out what that means for you, by feeling your way through it, you won’t be so held back by anything or anyone. All you have to do is show up and the your personal flow will sort of carry you through the rest.
9. Let go.
This is the hard one, and it’s a combination of everything that came before it. It’s having a deep enough relationship with yourself to know that feeling good about yourself — your efforts, your place, your path — is the only approval you need. It’s being able to move forward without attachments of expectation, preconceived ideas and daydreams. It’s being grateful for this moment and taking everything possible out of it so it doesn’t pass you by too quickly.
As you take these thoughts with you in your daily life, you'll deepen your physical yoga practice, and vice versa.