By Jennie Williford
Pranayama Yoga Studio
There are many reasons to do yoga: the fun of achieving physical strength and flexibility, mental clarity, or even spiritual enlightenment. There are also many excuses we use to not do yoga: fearing it to be too easy or too hard, being too stiff or too weak. But once you decide to give yoga a try, it is important to consider that the poses you find to be “easy,” reinforcing qualities you already possess, may not be the ones that will move you toward the results you seek or the transformation yoga can provide. At the same time, the poses you avoid may be the very poses that might bring the most change and growth on your yoga journey.
Typically, we choose activities because we think in some way we might be “good” at them, but yoga challenges this norm. There is no “good” or “bad” in yoga. In fact, thinking you are “good” or “bad” is an obstacle to the practice itself. Avoiding poses we fear or only doing poses we find fun makes it impossible to move toward yoga’s “goal”: the opportunity to experience our whole self and the possibility of being fully aware and present in body and mind.
Walking into a yoga class, most things asked of us are a little unnatural. For Western bodies that sit in chairs and drive cars, even the simplest yoga positions require muscles and actions that we do not use in daily life, no matter how physically active or stationary we may be. The myriad of yoga poses, along with their variations, provide everyone with some sort of challenge. The strongest and the weakest, the stiffest and the most flexible all come to yoga on a level playing field. And if your body doesn’t give you that challenge, your mind certainly will.
Unlike the kid who somersaults and cartwheels without a second thought, adults come to yoga with all their accumulated social pressures and ego attachments, body issues and possible injuries. Unable to do some pose, we get upset, frustrated and may even quit. Or, maybe we bully through to conquer, or feed our ego through performance. Take inverted poses, for example: head-stand, shoulder-stand , hand-stand , etc. … Does the mere mention of them make you tune out, decide that yoga is not for you? Or, maybe you see them as a physical challenge to be mastered, no matter the cost.
These reactions of avoidance and attachment are the mental disturbances yoga really asks us to watch. They are the stuff of our daily life. The poses are just the beginning, a controlled environment in which we can learn to get beyond our initial reactive mental states. Working with and through poses that are either fearful or fun provides us with opportunities to recognize our usual mental disturbance, and then challenges us to bring our mind to a quieter, more balanced place. Given only “comfortable” and “easy” poses in yoga can deprive us of this opportunity to transform our mental reactions for real-life challenges.
But it is important to accept this transformative challenge with a clear mind and a playful approach, like a kid doing a cartwheel. Yoga (and Iyengar Yoga, in particular) provides variations and alternatives for every pose. Whether you are one who shies away in fear or one who charges forward for fun, there are learning methods and steps to bring a balanced, active and safe experience to every student. Moving through your initial fear or fun and getting beyond your mental obstacles, you may find yourself transformed, able to do things you never even thought possible.
So, don’t avoid yoga because it challenges your ability, and don’t rest in the attachment you may have to yoga when it seems to come easy. Accept your yoga pose as a space and time where you can find absolute balance and quietness, guiding you toward the process of self-transformation.
For more information about Pranayama Yoga Studio, visit www.yogarockford.com or call (815) 968-9642.
From the Nov. 27-Dec. 3, 2013, issue