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Softening Into Yourself

Yoga requires (and builds) a lot of different skills. Holding a challenging arm balance requires strength. A fast-paced flow requires endurance. But I've felt for a long time that the part of the practice that allows people to achieve the greatest breakthroughs, both on and off the mat, is the part that requires you to soften into a pose. To soften into yourself.

Think about all the ways we hold tension. Your neck or back hurts after a long day. You clench your jaw when you're stressed. When you're in a deep twist or a pose that alerts you to tightness in your body, you tense. It's natural. The practice, the lesson, the overriding of biology, is to soften. To breathe into that tension and to let yourself begin to release.

So why is this hard? Because letting go necessitates an element of trust. You have to trust that you won't go too far. This is something we experience both on the mat and in our lives.

And it's something we've all been given an opportunity to practice during this pandemic. Letting go of what you considered normal requires you to trust that the changes in your life (both within and outside your control) are going to be manageable. You're going to be okay. But what if you don't know you'll be okay? What if you're worried about money, your job, your kids, your health? How do you find that trust and ability to surrender?

You practice. On your mat. Take those deep twists, the long holds, the intense stretches. Do the poses you normally avoid, the ones that reveal your tight hamstrings, inflexible spine, or the limited range of motion in your shoulders (okay, those ones are all me). Practice sitting with the discomfort. Notice how discomfort isn't quite the same thing as pain. Discomfort can be endured, and can even be softened when we allow ourselves to soften into discomfort. Breathe. Again, and again. Feel into your body. Feel your muscles tightly wound. Ask them to begin to soften. Feel as they yield to your breath. Feel how you're still okay. You will be okay.

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