TEACHING TODAY: Yoga Vida - 666 Broadway @ 2pm
"Imagine if you were so fully present during each experience of your life that it was touching you to the depth of your being. Every moment would be a stimulating, moving experience because you would be completely open, and life would be flowing right through you." - Michael A. Singer
Yoga isn't always easy. It isn't always comfortable. It isn't always this magical, spiritual, beautiful life-changing experience and yet we keep coming back to it. We come back for the moments when we feel our limbs moving perfectly in sync with our breath. For the moments when our minds become clear- even if only for a few seconds. For the moments when our hearts feel open and our bodies feel free.
We typically don't come running back to the mat for the moments of sweaty struggle. The unease of a wobbly Half Moon Pose, the anxiety-provoking hip-wrenchingness of ankle to knee, or the ego-crushing arm balance attempts. A sturdy, confident, expansive Triangle Pose? Yes- we'll take more of that and less of the other stuff please. We come to the poses that we like or are "good at" with an open heart and because of this, we experience them in a positive way. We approach the difficult, unfamiliar, and frustrating postures with a closed mind and a closed heart. We grimace or give up half-way through. We sit back on our heels, sip water and stare at the teacher blankly until the next pose is called. We tell ourselves "nuh uh, no way not me, no handstand." We force ourselves into deep twists- alignment and safety be damned- and hold our breath and grit our teeth until YESSS we can finally come out of it. We shut down for those few seconds or moments and then come back when we're told to return to a down dog, or another pose we are comfortable with. We close ourselves off and thus lose the opportunity to experience each moment of our practice fully.
What if we could stay completely open even during those awkward moments? Stay conscious during the transitions, present to our tensing muscles, aware of the changing quality of our breath and the fluctuations of our mind? What if instead of saying "nuh uh no way not me," we could say, "I can't seem to do this full split but I notice that I feel a deep but manageable stretch when I've extended my leg JUST this far, I can still breath deeply so long as I have a block under each hand and...hmm, this isn't so bad after all." What if we could approach the poses we have an aversion to with the same open heart and mind that we do our favorites? Could we rid ourselves of "favorite poses" entirely? Stay open to feel what we feel - good or bad- and move how we are able to move at one particular moment in time. We'd certainly learn more from the poses and possibly even grow to enjoy them. Maybe not because we can do them any "better" but because we'd be so engaged in these challenging moments. We'd realize that they are more stimulating and growth-provoking than poses we can do with our eyes closed (maybe not literally).
This week in my teaching, my personal practice, and in all areas of life, the goal is to stay open- even when my ego is begging me to shut down. During difficult poses, frustrating situations, and uncomfortable conversations, to remain present and allow what I'm feeling to be felt- right or wrong. If we can do this, we might begin to see that challenging moments can move through us as easily as positive ones, if only we don't put up a wall between ourselves and the experience. If we could stay open 24/7, we might see that all moments in our lives are just experiences without inherent qualities and that our willingness to be open to them is what makes them positive or negative. How would that change the overall quality of our lives? Could you stop closing off and shutting down for good?
Can we be open 24/7?