How Yoga Helped Me Accept Change
Well, I’ve been afraid of changing, Cause I, I built my life around you. I heard this while I was waiting in line at Starbucks the other day.
I’m no diehard Fleetwood Mac fan, but, like many people I know, this particular song stirs emotions and memories. The lyrics make me think of my dad.
Let’s be real. Few of us enjoy change. It’s difficult. It’s often unwanted and out of our control.
Even the good changes are hard, like when dreams become reality and their wake of positive shifts, which can be downright frightening.
I tell myself that I have the best excuse in the world to hate change: my dad’s out-of-the-blue car accident.
Brain injury brings change upon change upon change. A landslide.
Not long after humming along with Stevie at Starbucks, I was standing on a street corner in Brooklyn wrapping up a phone conversation with said dad.
It was one of the first sunny and slightly chilly days, when the weather is eager for autumn. My dad and I had shared a good conversation, our sentences following one after the other in normal father-daughter exchange, exactly the way I’d once envisioned our conversations would be when I was 30 and he was 62. Just the two of us talking about the dog, the Steelers, the guy I just met, and whether I think he should try a yoga class at the gym.
The conversation ended. I stood there frozen, unable to shake the disbelief of how easy it had just been to talk to him. No repeating things. No reminding him of people’s names. No boring stories read aloud from the local paper.
No brain injury.
I dropped the phone in my purse. I pulled off my aviators, and wiped away black streaks of mascara. My heart was pounding, so hard I could feel it loud in my ears. and a voice from somewhere inside of me was screaming: This is a GOOD thing, you ninny! Why are you CRYING?
Because my dad is changing—again. It’s a recent development, and all for the better. Nothing giant, just subtle shifts that are enough to set my mother and me at unease, just enough to make the conversations more enjoyable.
But the changes are good, so what is going on?
Yet again, I can generally find a pretty solid explanation for life off the yoga mat when I’m on the yoga mat.
Warrior One is a pose I never gave much thought to.
Maybe, like I tell my students, I could “find a little more energy in the outer edge of my back foot” and maybe “that front hip could afford to drop down and hug a bit more to midline.”
But I was admittedly comfortable with my Warrior One right where it was.
That is, until the time I heeded the cues I offer to my students—I found a little more energy in my back foot and a little more space in my front hip.
And then everything changed.
Finding myself deeper into the asana than I had been before, I felt as though I was beginning to understand more about how opposing energies work and how an asana can really access your organs. (Again, these are all things that I tell my students.)
I was not a happy yogi. I wanted the old Warrior One back, the one in which my hips are a little wonky, the one I know best.
But I was in a new Warrior. So I did my best to shut off my mind and breathe through it, deeply through it. My body was happy. My prana was flowing. There really wasn’t much more to ask of this pose.
All the change, all the disdain, was in my head.
In that one week, I found more space in my hip crease and more normal in my dad. Two good things—and yet I felt distressed by both.
What was my real fear? Change?
Yes, it pulls us away from the status quo, away from the familiar place of static activity, of safeness, of stillness. Yes, it creates movement, and who’s to say where that movement will take us? And, yes, most assuredly, change is mostly out of our control.
But it's just change—the good, the bad—and it exists only in our minds.
Nothing in nature can bring the mind continuous, unchanging happiness, because the mind itself changes constantly. . . . Changes are like flowing water. If you let the water just flow, it is very pleasant to sit and watch.