I usually write my blog posts over the weekend. But upon sitting down to begin writing this weekend, I found myself to be a bit stuck. So, I decided to go to a new yoga class Sunday morning and wait for inspiration to strike me.
I walked into the unfamiliar yoga studio that morning and was surprised to see that a teacher I was familiar with was teaching the class (someone who teaches at the beloved studio I described in my last post as well). She is not my favorite teacher, but I respect and look up to her greatly. Her classes challenge me in a way that puts be far out of my comfort zone (which, I know, is often what we yogis need most). They need me to work harder than I ever would have considered in most other classes. Push me to stretch while also doing something obscure, like holding myself up on one arm. You know, no big deal.
Anyway, I waited to begin a class that I knew would not be the fluid, juicy yoga practice that I have come to love. I would not be pushing the ever lurking “edge” in the difficult poses on my “to-do list,” but rather entering into new, intricate, seemingly impossible postures. As our teacher sat down in front of us, I braced myself for class that lie ahead. But, instead of jumping right into class, she just spoke with us for a moment.
In the moments before class began, she spoke to us about the conflict between ease and effort in our yoga practices. She explained that ease is really the goal. I interpret ease in my practice as a sense of flow. The individual poses can still be challenging. I can still develop my strength and flexibility. Ease in yoga does not mean we stop trying to advance our postures. It means we allow this growth to occur fluidly and with this sense of ease. Our faces should not contort. We should not be thinking negatively. We should love the challenge so much that joy is emanating through our trembling muscles and smiling faces.
This is such a beautiful concept to me. Yoga is not about what you do, but about the way you do it. It is about cultivating peace and grace above strengthening muscles. If that doesn’t remove the judgment and fear from yoga, then I don’t know what does!
Our teacher spent the rest of the class taking us into those difficult poses that I had expected. Throughout the class, however, she reminded us to look for the balance between ease and effort. This allowed me to move beyond any negative thoughts the practice brought me. To harness the true joy of yoga and love of the practice being presented to me. To embrace any tired muscles and breathe through the tension. To find the ease.
I can’t tell you the effect this philosophy had on my yoga practice that day. I can only imagine that the improvements would abound if I were able to keep it in mind throughout future yoga practices. I highly recommend thinking about this lesson I so gratefully learned over the weekend. I think the possibilities could be endless, both in yoga and in life.