Spring Forward with Yoga

Oh how I am starting to feel like I am coming out of a hole. You, too? The confines of cold temps and lockdowns, short daylight hours and too much TV are mercifully giving way to warmer days, glimmers of light, glimmers of hope. Plus news of vaccines, potential re-opening of our cities, and some sense of freedom (even if still restricted), is so promising.

This winter has felt stranger than any before. But here we are, coming out of it, just like we do every year. Spring forward! In the last few months, for me some days have felt like I’ve been ice-picking my way methodically out of a crevasse only to slide back down. Deep crevasses in my body, heart, and mind. It’s like I just make it to the top to see the light but for whatever reason I fall back. I’ve discovered that it is not actually some THING or some ONE who is pushing me back down, even though my mind wants to go there to put the blame on external influences. It is more often than not actually my small self who is purposely falling back down, because it feels justified…protective…and easier to wallow in the pit than to muster up the energy to climb back out.

But as always for me, the wisdom of Yoga comes to the rescue once again. Yoga teaches us about the influence of the GUNAS (rajas, tamas, and sattva) – those primordial energies of the Universe that permeate all levels of nature. Check out this article for a good explanation of the gunas: https://www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/health/yoga-philosophy-101-3-gunas/). Once you’ve recognized that you are stuck in a hole (energy of TAMAS), then in order to pull yourself out, you need to tap into the energy of RAJAS – action, motivation, enthusiasm. Not too much, not too little, but just the right amount to get you to put one foot in front of the other. Maybe that means opening your eyes first thing in the morning, pausing to take some deep breaths, and then repeating to yourself, “I am light, I am light, I am light”. Get up and get out by yourself (this is for YOU) – even if it’s just a short walk around the block. Breathe in the fresh air, feel yourself move, keep reminding yourself, “I am light, I am light, I am light” until you truly believe it and embody it. Returning to the energy of SATTVA – harmony and balance – all day long. This simple practice (affirm, get up, get out) seemed to have just the right amount of RAJAS to help me climb out of the hole, helped me find my mojo, and has kindled the creative spark once again. See my latest yoga video: ENERGIZING YOGA III – LIGHTEN UP!

Sattvic energy – the energy of harmony and balance WITHOUT reaction to disturbance – has to be cultivated regularly in order to be maintained. Yoga teaches of the need to fine-tune effort and surrender towards sattva so we don’t swing too far under the influence of rajasic or tamasic energy. It requires the balancing approach of Abhyasa, beautifully described by Chip Hartranft in his translation of The Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali (Shambala Publications, 2003) as, “the subtle effort of returning and rereturning to relaxation and coalescence” (39). He goes on to explain that this not-too-much-not-too-little approach is a balancing act of effort and effortlessness that we can practice in all we do, but starts with stillness and internal awareness. He says:

Stillness is a reflection of our growing openness to the unpredictable unfolding of the world as it is, a freedom from the constant effort to bend things to our liking, to make them conform to our conditioned notions of good and bad“.

(Hartranft, 2003, 39)

So we balance effort (get up and get out) with surrender (sit quietly, quit the fidgeting and squirming, breathe and let be), observing the internal bits and bites that come up without reacting. You can practice sitting quietly in stillness after one of my MEDITATIONS observing and sensing the comings and goings of phenomena in the body and the mind. Hartranft explains:

Our growing familiarity with subtle internal experiences helps us recognize the ways our bodymind contracts in the presence of hurt, delay, desire, and other features of daily life. We begin to catch ourselves earlier in the process of tightening, viselike, around difficulty, disagreement, or frustration. We can then relax, noting how this embodies the intention to know the moment more clearly and openly. Nor is it ever wrong to do so, we begin to sense. Loosening the valves seems always to allow things to resolve and wisdom to enter. This imparts both the freedom to act and the freedom not to have to.

(Hartranft, 2003, 39-40)

Good advice once again from the wisdom of Yoga; getting out of the depths of my funk has been much easier with the valves loosened and my imaginary ice-pick effortlessly landing where it needed to go. Abhyasa! Practice makes perfect so let’s keep at it, both on and off the mat. May you spring forth with ease!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: