The philosophy of Strala yoga was inspired by the experiences I had growing up on a farm in Illinois. Without planning to do so, I started a self-taught practice of yoga and meditation using nature to connect, enjoy, and get excited about my life’s purpose. I would sit comfortably, close my eyes, and connect inward. I would move with the wind and flow with the water. I let nature infect my thoughts and my body—and when I did this I felt a profound and energizing sense of space, calm, and excitement for my life’s possibilities. I also felt a strong desire to serve and help others. I loved dreaming about how amazing the world could be.
As I moved throughout life, I slowly started getting away from this natural state of connection and joy. I got busy. I got stressed. And soon enough I started to feel sick and unhappy—just a lack of energy all around. Life was hard, and it wasn’t simply because I was an adult with adult responsibilities. Life was hard because that was my mindset. I thought I had to work hard to succeed. And I worked hard. And then harder. And harder yet.
But after some time of suffering, I began to look within. I came to realize that living a joyful life rested in living a life of ease. I don’t mean an easy life. I mean a life where you tap into yourself so you can understand just where you are and how best to move forward. It’s not about forcing yourself in predetermined directions or fighting for everything you want. Ease is the basis of expansion, growth, healing, and innovation. An approach of ease can take you to—and even beyond—your goal without taxing your spirit or ruining your health.
We’ve been taught that ease is the path of laziness. Society tells us we need to push through pain to get anywhere good, so we turn off our natural wisdom and trick ourselves in an effort to achieve in a way that others prescribe. In this world people who are stressed, tense, and unhealthy are held up as good examples. You must work hard, accomplish tasks, and trudge on. Being calm and connected and feeling good is OK only as a reward. You have to earn that vacation or retirement with years of punishment. This may sound harsh, but it’s the truth of how we live.
Even in healing practices themselves, pain, tension, and simmering in stress and sadness has been glorified. Instead of tuning in to the effects of these practices, we concentrate on how good we are at them. Instead of allowing them to be a tool to improve our lives, we implement them as a constricting, judgment-filled achievement. Pushing deeper and applying tension and force has desensitized us from our own sense of reason and taken us through a wild storm of chaos masked in the language of healing.
It’s against everything we learn (not everything we know) to back away from tension and stress and seek a better way. We need to spend some time reconnecting with our own wisdom, brewing in the practice of working in an easygoing manner. I’m not asking for you to believe in anything, change your religion, or even change your habits. I’m asking you to do yourself the biggest favor of your life. Take a step forward in believing in yourself—not in what society has taught you.
Taking it easy.
So, how do we get to a place of ease? As I said before, ease isn’t a destination; it’s a process. It’s a way of living. The process of ease is the "how" of doing anything. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing. How you approach things will make them hard or easy. Approaching with a how of ease can solve a lot of problems. So let’s look at the three steps of an easy approach.
Step 1: Slow down.
We move quickly and rigidly without thinking. We need to get somewhere so we hold our breath, clench, work really hard, and hurry up to get there. We leave one destination and race to another, move further away from ourselves. So how do we remedy this? Slow down. This gives us the space and time to explore possibilities.
Step 2: Breathe deeply.
After opening some space by slowing down, take a big, full, deep breath, and keep them going. Breathing deeply and fully is our lighthouse to sensitizing ourselves to how we feel. When we breathe deeply, we listen to the cues coming from our bodies and our minds. We learn what is going on inside, so we are in an informed position to act positively. Without the breath, we have no space for informed decisions.
Step 3: Feel.
Feeling is the final fantastic part of ease. After slowing down, creating the space, and breathing deeply, we are now in a position to feel and then respond to how we feel. Without feeling, we are simply doing, like robots, the tasks of our days or the poses in our yoga classes. We are reacting to external forces rather than responding from a place of intelligence.
Feeling is how we accomplish ease. When we feel, we move easily and make decisions that heal our lives. Prioritizing feeling is the best gift you can give to yourself and everyone around you. If we don’t feel, we simply follow what we think we should do. We’re located only in our minds, copying the actions of those we’ve seen before. There is zero space for your own unique body and mind. Without feeling, we do not flourish. We do not express our true selves. Living with ease, we open our lives up to authentic, expansive expression of our true selves.
The three-step process of ease works not only in yoga but in every aspect of life. How do you work on a project you’re frustrated with? Slow down, breathe, feel. How do you treat yourself better and break some bad health habits? Slow down, breathe, feel.
When you get into the process of ease, you’re on the right path to make great choices and feel great. When you work through challenges with all kinds of tension, you might achieve your goal, but you’ll be stressed, tense, and narrow-sighted during your process. You get more with ease than you do with tension.
I know that might seem crazy, but ease is much more natural than tension. If you don’t believe me, go check out the ocean; watch the waves move naturally with ease. They don’t hesitate and tighten when the storm is coming. They roll right along in the most natural path. A tree doesn’t freak out when the wind blows. It simply moves its branches to go along for the ride—and, after the storm, the tree remains.
For more on Tara, find out what bedroom essentials she can't live without and how yoga can help create intimacy in your relationship.