I recently taught a Yin Yoga Workshop for 2 hours. It sounds like a long time for a yoga class but the time flew by! In designing this workshop I found that unlike other styles of yoga, this one allows the practitioner time to reach different phases of the pose that goes way beyond the body. (The physical postures are held longer; anywhere from 3 to 10 minutes.)
Many run all week long with errands, rushing around and trying to fit just one more thing into our agenda. By stopping, observing we can let go for sure. You may have heard a yoga teacher say “let go” but weren’t sure exactly how to do it. So instead you went to sleep, laid there making lists of things you’ll get at the grocery store or just got up and left.
How do we learn to let go? Lets talk about the phases I mentioned earlier. The first phase is one where we are quick to respond to the physical body; often this is a negative response. We get upset, irritated and angry as the mind yells at the physical body for doing this. Even blaming others. The mind likes to say “I would rather be anyplace else but here.” Kind of like a child having a temper tantrum. It is there we stop and focus on the breathe instead. This allows the muscles time to relax and allow the mind to calm down. (The mind isn’t just located in the brain – it is in the entire body.)
From there we may find that the panic we were experiencing wasn’t real and see ourselves loosen up, become less tense and maybe go further physically; only this time without trying so hard…less effort. This is where many styles of yoga may move on – off onto another physical position.
In the moderate flow I teach each week we hold postures longer than vinyasa styles. For those that feel a resistance to Gentle Yoga, this moderate flow finds a nice middle ground. It is here in this third phase that I suggest to let the Physical body go (Anamaya Kosha) and as they have been observing the mind body already (Manomaya Kosha) I offer that they Witness this moment. Witnessing is another step in the Koshas called Vijnanamaya. Here though I am not asking them to change or mold it to what they wanted. Instead take it for what it is. Suggesting to them that there isn’t anything wrong with right there. Enjoy this moment as you won’t have it again. I’ll say “even if that moment is WTF”. Laughter happen because of the truth in this moment.
Often we try to be so many things to the world. We have an image of what we want to be and work so hard at it. We fight being where we truly are and it is that struggle that may be hurting us; our afflictions become the source of our suffering. Funny though when we move on in life or in postures we look back at that time and have a different view of it. We can spend so much of that time looking back or wanting that moment to return that we can’t just be right here.
This is the truth or reality though – you can’t make it be something else. For example in yoga I like to have the practitioner do tree pose with a block – either standing on the block or placing the it on the head. Fact is there is fear that rises and the ego knows that they may embarrass themselves if they use the block- others will see that their tree isn’t perfect. The block won’t lie and “I can’t pretend to be something I want to be”. Phases of the posture can take place by witnessing it. Seeing that the fear wasn’t real. Falling – doesn’t mean you failed. Often you just get back up again and try. You learned more from that anyway.
Additionally in our busy lives we start looking for problems or keep busy to avoid being still. If someone does something, says or writes something, someone is there quickly to respond to find a problem with it. I see this even in teaching yoga. Being around other teachers where they want to study the postures, bodies and how to assist – I think many are missing the bigger question. It isn’t about that person’s body looking a certain way; even the way I intended. Instead – I ask “is that person doing something harmful?” Are they hurting themselves? If not – why modify or adjust it? Even as a yoga teacher it is possible to look and find problems in those we see. I have to witness that and let-it go.
This is why I believe many come to yoga for a short time only to move onto another sport or activity. They become unhealthy, hurt themselves and become tired when they don’t see the results they wanted. They wanted something in themselves that may not be real and as a teacher I feel we are there to help them experience some peace with that.
Instead of resisting we can go to another phase – just being. It is that place I like to think of as “I’m ok”. You don’t feel amazing or bad. You are seeing yourself as it truly is. You just find that middle place where you are ok and don’t have to seek problems. Most importantly when faced with someone else’s comments, anger or hurtful actions, you pause and are ‘ok’. The reality of the moment reminds you of the true self; not the ego that wants to protect itself and hit back in response. This is that final phase of the Kosha’s called Anadamya or Bliss.
Bliss is an interesting word. I used to think of it as this amazing carefree happy place. I think there are clouds with harps playing in the background there (LOL). Suddenly I found myself responding to friends asking me how I was and when I thought about it, I was ‘ok’. Then I sat and thought that isn’t good enough. I would become easily obsessed again. “I should have another goal to achieve.” But I asked myself why? Can’t I just enjoy right now? Then I did. I just stopped and my mind calmed down again. Then later I started to think about bills, house improvements and retirement. I tell myself ‘stop it’. I’ve always been ok and all the worrying didn’t help at all. There are always piles of clothes, dishes, deadlines and bosses at your heals. It takes work each day and even being a yogi doesn’t mean I’m free from the struggles. It means I see it faster, identify it and let go. Now knowing the tools of how to ‘let-go’.
I believe many confuse my message – even in yoga. I’m not saying do nothing at all or never try to go further than you thought. It has to do with the effort to get there. It can happen when I let go. That letting go is mind over matter. I had to realize that I’m never crossing that finish line or celebrating that the “To-Do” list is fully checked off. Life never gets to that place – until we die! Thank God for that! We aren’t dead and very much living. That is why with life changing events many start to see that the things they thought were important weren’t. Instead we start to live each moment just as it is right here and now. The beautiful place that is very much alive and real.
Hope you find these tools helpful to letting go.