So, as part of my #NewYearsAspirations, I aim to do some type of yoga every day. Every. Damn. Day.
Yesterday, I took in a new favorite practice…Stand Up Paddle Board Yoga with Dragonfly Paddle Yoga here in Colorado Springs (guess what I am asking for next month for my birthday?) was amazing and right in my wheel house. Plenty of room (I managed to not really even get splashed too much when my neighbor fell overboard!) to move, yet challenging for balance postures due to others in the pool, making small waves.
This morning, I opted for a beginner yoga class at my home studio, Yoga Studio Satya. It was overflowing with so many wonderful people looking to return to, start, or fine tune their practice…it was delightful. And yet…
You see, I am your classic case of a Pitta doshic type. I am very organized, structured (bordering on rigid), Type A persona who has to have things right before I can ever begin to relax. I have been known to lose sleep over a messy house when company is coming, to stand up mid-practice to realign my yoga mat so that it is either aligned with the wood floor or ceiling or wall, and I only feel truly comfy, cozy, and at peace when my home is clean and tidy (I am almost there.)
So, when two students joined class at the last minute, they came in to the classroom and rolled their mats about as close to mine as possible, at least in my Pitta eyes. I scooted my mat closer to the wall, knowing the minute we went through any type of sequence where our arms sweep overhead, we would be smacking one another (as it was, I still had to stagger to avoid that.)
Ohhh, to have my own personal sacred space. Well, I do have that…it is right in the center of my heart. However, at that moment, this perceived encroachment tested me. My natural inclination was to roll my eyes in indignation at the invasion of the 3 foot rectangle of space around my mat (and while I would never do that physically, I can promise you that inside, that is my first response) much like a toddler stomping their foot when something fails to go their way. This is a common response of mine that I am working to improve upon…I truly do not want to treat others as if they are always wrong and I am always right. Pitta, pitta, pitta…oh, how you teach me!
So, I put my big girl yoga pants on and…let it go. As we came into our practice in balasana, or Child’s pose, I thought about how this experience would be for the other person…who maybe was anxious at being in the front of the room, in front of all the other students because there were no other spots. I considered how this would help me work on some of my own rigidity (yoga is more about touching your toes, which is a whole other type of inflexibility that yoga can help…but, in this case, my own inner need to be in total control and my indignation when I find myself not in charge.) I meditated on the thought that this was the universe’s way of reminding me that I practice yoga to practice being present, to allow those things which do not serve me to move along, to let go of assumptions and just embrace what is. I chose a mental focus or mantra or short phrase (known as sankalpa) to take over as I focused on my breath. Let. It. Go. With each breath in, I would say to myself, “I breathe in calm.” With each exhale, I would say to myself, “Let it go.”
And…I did. I kept my eyes closed for most of the class, focused on my breathing, turning my mind inward to deal with my own crap versus allowing my focus to remain on things beyond my control. I did my best to release the irritation I felt at something so ridiculous and minuscule because to be irritated by that moment did not serve me AT ALL. And somewhere, that irritation turned to grace and kindness. Due to the number of students in the class, my neighbor did not have a certain prop. I did not need the prop so I was able to offer it to them so that their practice was enhanced. We laughed after this wonderful practice as my neighbor thanked me for giving them my prop…it made me feel…really, really good.
I had not allowed my inner, control hungry self to wreck my practice but in fact, had used that inner self to harness that focus to enhance my practice. You want to control? Well, honey, let’s control that breath. Let’s control that lengthening of the spine. Let’s control that jaw by not clenching it. A wave of happiness and peace washed over me…and I saw that joy reflected in my neighbors smile and appreciation.
So, the next time you find yourself annoyed by a seemingly silly thing, or even a very important thing, take a moment to reflect on what is really going on that is causing you such angst. Perhaps take a few breaths, close the eyes, unclench the jaw, and visualize letting go of those feelings, anxieties, perceived slights that absolutely do not serve you, as you slow the breath down and explore the flight, fight, or freeze response.
Show yourself some grace, of course…because having an emotional response to a situation is what makes us human. Judging and punishing ourselves for how we respond to life can be just as harmful as how we judge others and act towards other. Yoga teaches us that to practice ahimsa, or no harm, is not just about how we engage with the world around us, but also in how we engage with ourselves (I am my worst critic!). It is how we choose to react beyond that initial spark of anger, fear, anxiety, and yes, even elation, joy, and excitement, that will define the kind of person we wish to be and what kind of energy we share with those around us. Perhaps finding that moment of pause, even if it is only the pause between an inhale and exhale, will allow you to find the space you need, in that brief moment of time, to create your own sense of comfort and balance when faced by life.