Each month I look forward to the theme The Mat yoga studio chooses in its monthly newsletter and why a teacher may have chosen that particular theme. I also look forward over the weeks to see how different teachers may incorporate that theme in their classes. The theme for December was finding ease, and towards the end of December, I started to think of the poses in which I could now – sometimes – find ease that I couldn’t some time ago. Vasisthasana (side plank) is one, and Chaturanga is another. Though I admit, Chaturanga is one that some days I find less ease in than others.
Making resolutions or goals in yoga, it can be easy to think “this time next year, I’m going to do a headstand.” What if the resolution was to find ease in our practice?
I have found that for me, when I practice more mindfully, I am more apt to find ease in those poses. Take Chaturanga, when I think of if truly as shifting forward on the inhale, and taking the full exhale to lower halfway, I don’t struggle as often through it. But when it feels more like a transition pose, just something I have to get through, it’s challenging. It’s hard, and I think “oh, I don’t want to lower halfway again.” The slow, purposeful pose is one I don’t mind so much.
It’s a strange way to think about it, isn’t it? I intuitively think that if I can get something – whatever it is – over and done with, that might be better than slowly undertaking the action. But going through a pose and thinking of the breath, trying to keep with full and steady inhales and exhales, I think more about the alignment and engaging the muscles that support me. And maybe it’s through that conscious engagement and steadiness that allows me to find ease. I am supported.
As I worked on this month’s post, it’s been a great reminder to me in class. When I found myself feeling challenged – albeit in a challenging to me pose or feeling tired after a long day and that tiredness was my challenge in class – I thought, where can I find ease in this pose? Where can I find ease in the moment? I started first with my breath, taking in a full inhale and letting out a full exhale. Sometimes that was the reminder I needed to move slowly and purposefully through the flow. Other times, it was just a way for me to come back and connect with the breath, and sometimes that was what I needed.
And then other days it meant modifying, even if it may not be a pose in which I may not often modify. There are days where my hamstrings are tighter than others, and those days the stretch doesn’t feel as good. On those days, I reach for blocks to bring the floor a little closer and rest more comfortably in the pose, albeit pyramid or maybe even triangle.
I’ve thought about the Finding Ease several times since the month of December. And while I could also write another post – or several more – of how to have this theme in mind in my daily life, for this post I’d like to end with the hope that it’s one I’ll keep in my mind with my practice. Finding ease in my practice doesn’t mean having an easy practice, but finding ease along the way as I grow.
To read about February’s theme – Higher Love – check out The Mat’s newsletter.
This is the part of a series of posts for The Mat yoga studio, sharing my thoughts and observations as a student only. The views and opinions are my own.