A few weeks ago, I took an energizing, inversion-heavy, power-flowing yoga class with my friend Natalie. Natalie has an excellent and effortless handstand; the product of many years of consistent yoga practice. She floats up easily, with little thought, and hangs out up there, criss-crossing her legs into eagle with ease. It's graceful and beautiful and simple. My own practice has come a long way, but it's rooted in gymnastics, which I took from a very young age until my adolescent years when I discovered dance. Gymnasts are taught how to "handstand" very differently than yogis. Gymnasts use momentum & strength to enter into a handstand, rather than engagement and lift, or, as is commonly called, "float" in yogi terms.
As we left yoga class, chatting about our favorite parts, Natalie said something that has stuck with me. "You know, you don't have to work so hard. You have the strength; you can see every muscle in your body working. But it's more about the balance. Once you find that, you can stay up there forever." (*This may be a slight paraphrase, but you get the gist).
"You don't have to work so hard." Huh. Huh? But, but...I have been working SO HARD my entire life in everything!
Her statement stuck with me, and I later realized I'd heard this sentiment once before: a few years ago, I went to the Sivananda Ashram in the Bahamas for a few days on a solo retreat. My overall experience there was powerful. In short, I learned that at that time in my life, I was not really ready to let go and meditate or do yoga for hours on end. I was not ready to be truly still. (That, by the way, speaks only to where I was in my life at that point, and NOT at all about the ashram, which was truly beautiful and soul-deepening). But during one of the yoga classes, a teacher said something similar to Natalie's statement. "Don't push. Keep it gentle," he stated, mysteriously, as we were engaged in a static asana. That caught my ear, too. Don't push? I've been pushing my whole life!
I've been muscling into and out of poses for a long time. And, as is often the case, what happens on the yoga mat tends to mirror what is going on in our lives. I am ambitious and driven and if I want something, I do everything I can to get it. If I feel like it's worth putting up a fight for, oh, I will put up a fight! Whether the object of my desire is a perfect handstand or a job or eggs benedict at 2 a.m., I will go the distance to get what I want. And while that drive has merit, it doesn't always lend itself well to the task at hand.
Yoga, mindfulness, and ultimately life, should be free from attachments. When we work too hard for a desired outcome, the result will be rigid, inflexible, and is usually only attained through struggle. One thing I've learned, and am very much continuing to learn, is that life should not be a struggle. Neither should handstands. Letting go, being light, accepting the ebbs and flows of life with grace, and thus achieving balance: that's what life should be about.
Are you "muscling through life?" How can you take it just a bit easier? How can you stop pushing? Drop me a note or reply in the comments! :)
In love & lightness,
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!