Is there a posture that you constantly struggle with? Maybe you did it once, but could never do it again. Or, maybe you’ve been working on it for years.
I’ve posted about mine right here, and right here again. Guess what, I’m still working on it!
You’re probably going to different teachers or watching youtube videos like crazy trying to figure that one thing you’re not doing. What’s that one thing to get you into the posture? Maybe you have to roll your shoulder down, or arch your back.
What’s the trick? Someone’s gotta know, right?
If you’re familiar with Ashtanga yoga, then you know about being stopped at postures. If not, the way it works is that your teacher stops you at the posture you’re struggling with, and you don’t move on until you’re instructed to.
When people ask me why they are stopped at certain postures, or why we practice the same sequence over and over, I usually respond with something like this:
Because the more we do the practice every day, we learn more about ourselves. What are we feeling in each posture? What are the patterns in our mind? How are we reacting? If we’re hard on ourselves, then we probably feel like that off the mat. If we are breathing too fast and rushing the practice, we probably rush things in life. If we feel the need to skip or be lazy in postures, we’re probably late to every event. If we can’t make it to the mat, we probably need to learn how to follow through. Most of all, we learn to observe these thoughts and feelings, and react less. It’s only five breaths, and knowing everything is temporary takes the pressure off.
Even though I know all of the above, I still find myself disappointed that I can’t do this posture. I observe it everyday, and yes, I’m way less reactive in yoga and all situations in life, but the root is still there. I’m still chasing a posture. And, what we do on the mat, we also do off the mat. That means, I must be chasing other things.
That is until I took a different approach that has changed everything. And, I really do mean that just a simple tweak in my thinking has helped me break through all of my current obstacles.
Well, maybe not ALL of them. I still have a mean fear of public speaking that I’m going to have to break later this month when I speak at Florida Blog Conference (had to throw a quick plug in there).
I remembered what Krishna Das said at one of the concerts I went to:
“When we chant, we’re trying to bring out these qualities within. Everything that we want is already inside of us.”
In other words, everything we’re chasing, we already have. We just have to realize it. That can be applied to yoga asana practice, too.
Here’s what I mean:
Postures themselves are just like any material possession. Mastering a posture, or adding on more is like having more clothing or a bigger house.
With anything in life, it’s not really the material things that we want, but it’s the feelings they give us.
Let’s say you want lots of money. You don’t want green crumpled paper with text, you want a feeling of freedom, security, or possibly power.
In yoga practice, It’s not the shape of the posture we want, but we want a certain feeling out of it. DO you want to feel powerful, accomplished, or like a leader? Do you want approval from someone? Do you want to impress others?
Also notice if you’re feeling negative in other areas of your yoga practice. Are you hard on yourself? Do you push yourself into pain? Do you feel the need to skip postures? Are you lazy or avoiding?
Ask yourself what you’re hoping to gain from being so hard on yourself? Do you want someone to notice your hard work?
Here’s the thing, we’re constantly chasing something to give us that feeling, but what we really want, we need to find within.
When you realize what you are trying to feel, that’s a sign that it’s trying to emerge. So, rather than trying to get somewhere, put the work and effort on bringing that out from inside.
The feelings that we’re longing for are tied to obstacles that have been holding us back since childhood. Something happened, and for whatever reason, we did not feel accomplished, worthy, or good enough, etc. Because of that, we constantly look for something to fill that void. The problem is, we are looking for it from outside sources.
Let’s just use the example that we’re looking for praise and approval. Even if we were to get into that yoga posture, and our teacher gave us praise, we’d still be chasing that with the next one.
You could try to force a situation, or change an environment, but I bet that you’d create another situation where you were still looking for praise. If you started practicing alone, maybe you’d post a ton on social media, or send yoga pictures to people that you know that would wow at what you could do. So, forcing something is NOT the answer.
Whatever environment you’re in, you’ll have to learn to approve of yourself first and foremost. The best part is that we don’t even need to cultivate it because it already exists inside of us!
Nobody can validate your actions, or approve of you enough unless you do it first. Otherwise, we’re going to just end up chasing the same postures or feelings, but fighting the same obstacles over and over again.
Let’s say you’re looking for the right partner on dating sites because you’re sick of being alone (nothing wrong with those sites, btw – just an example), and you start dating and fall in love – you might realize that you still feel very lonely. What are you trying to get from that person? Do you want to feel loved, secure, accepted? Even if the person you’re with gives you all of that and more, you’re still going to still find a way to chase the void until you can love yourself first.
When you get to a posture you can’t do, find out what you’re feeling, but go deeper, and ask yourself what you want to feel, and why.
Here’s Your #YogiLesson:
It’s one thing to talk about all of this, but the real progress happens when you do the work. So, I have a few action items to help you with this in your practice:
Get out a pad of paper and….
1) Ask yourself, “What am I feeling?” How does your body and heart feel? Give it a name. Sad, frustrated, invisible, or angry. Take a second to really feel that emotion. You don’t want to repress it, but really acknowledge and be with it. It’s okay and human to feel these things. Write this down in a journal too so you can refer to it later.
2) Ask yourself, “How do I want to feel inside?” Don’t focus on the negative emotion, but focus on the good feelings you think you’d gain from getting the posture. Write this down in your journal too, and take note of how you chase this in other areas of your life.
3) Make the change: Live your life the way you want to feel.
Once we realize this void, we actually want to create the life we want. So ,take note of these feelings, and make a point to live your life each day how you want to feel.
Do you want to feel free inside? How would a free person live? How would your body feel if you felt totally free of stress, worry, debt, etc?
Do you want to feel accomplished or successful? Make a list of how a successful person would act and live, and start to cultivate that in your life.
4) Surround yourself with people that empower you. We are the accumulation of the 5 people that we surround ourselves with. Make a list of the people you see daily, and spend the most time with. Eliminate anyone that disempowers you, and doesn’t encourage you to grow. It sounds harsh, but surrounding yourself with the wrong people, or people that don’t have similar life goals can actually hold you back.
Or course, sometimes it’s out of our control – like a boss, parent, or colleague. If we have no choice but to surround ourselves with people who disempower us, we can at least choose how we react and communicate with them.
5) Make a list of the qualities of the types of people you’d like to surround yourself with. Writing down these qualities is the first step in manifesting change your life, your friendships, and relationships. Once you make this change, then the people who disempower you won’t have as big of an impact.
It’s kind of ironic that being stopped at postures in yoga practice moves us forward in life. The truth is that each teacher is different. Some teachers move students on quickly, and some don’t. There is no wrong way unless the intention is negative from the teacher. Whether you’re moved on before you get a posture, or you’re stopped until you do, you’re still going to experience the same obstacle until you can surrender to it, and find that quality inside of yourself.
Your goal is to learn to enjoy your practice because it helps and improves you. Even the yucky parts. Kind of like when I work for myself, even the parts that feel like work I love because I’m doing what I enjoy, and I’m constantly learning and improving my business.
So, even though you realize it’s no longer about the chase, it’s still important to put effort towards your practice and postures (Sutra 2.47). It’s important to still work towards postures because in life, it’s important to keep learning and improving. When you’re not moving forward, you’re stagnate.
How can you find joy in every part of your yoga practice? You don’t want it to feel like torture. You want it to feel like nourishment and growth even if it takes hard work. The only way to do that is that knowing that doing the work makes you a better person, and because of that you love the frick out of it!
Stop trying to get somewhere. You are already accomplished, approved of, powerful, successful, loved… all of that. The fact that it’s coming up in your practice is good! That means that it’s trying to emerge.
Once you get in the habit of creating the life you want, the chase is gone. You’re already achieving the feeling you want from getting that posture, so really, you’re already doing it. Now you can just work on the next thing!
Tell me in the comments one insight you took from this. Did you know you had it in you all along? Did asking yourself what you want to feel make you realize a particular obstacle that’s been holding you back for years?
I’d love to hear your insight!
To open hearts and happy hips,