The Challenges of Transitions (On and Off the Yoga Mat)

Liz Gill
The Challenges of Transitions (On and Off the Yoga Mat)

Change is hard, and transitions are always challenging. But if we can stay with them – and really experience the movement, rather than rushing from one pose to the next and emphasizing the destination rather than the journey – the flow of life is more readily available to us.

In fact, isn’t all life actually a process of change? Times when we think we’ve landed and settled are illusory. As long as we’re breathing, we’re changing.

The bustling metropolis of the body, more complex than Manhattan, is always in a process of constant change. And when we try to deny or prevent it, physically or emotionally, bad things happen: blocks, stagnation, and eventually death — cellular or systemic.

Rushing through change means we miss it – and maybe wake up some day wondering where the time went. So next time you’re resisting floating through Chaturanga, or trying to reach the safe harbour of Down Dog, perhaps spare a thought for that in-between zone, the changing, challenging place where, in fact, we actually live.

Ch-ch-ch-chaturanga!

In Surya Namaskara A and B, the move from Uttanasana to Upward-Facing Dog epitomises the challenges of transition: it’s demanding, uncomfortable, and potentially dangerous if you get it wrong!

Those ashtangis who jump back sometimes jump back into plank, giving the lower back a little sag-shock en route, or speed through Chaturanga at such a pace they never have to deal with its uncomfortable realities.

Next time you’re making this move, why not slow down...dramatically? If you’re stepping back, move first into plank. If you’re jumping, make sure your breath leads, your belly contracts and your elbows bend before you leap. This way, you’ll have a strong foundation to land into and avoid that bowing effect into the lumbar thatn ac take its toll on your discs.

Once in Chaturanga, check your alignment – the elbows are over the wrists and the upper arms parallel to the floor. Then stay – in stillness – for 10 breaths. It’s no one’s favourite pose, but the practise of endurance, perseverance and accommodating discomfort are some of the most important things we learn on the mat.

A Clean Exit

How many times have you moved elegantly into a pose, only to virtually collapse out of it at the end?

I’m thinking Ardha Chandrasana, but any standing pose that involves balance can turn into a chaotic domino effect in a class. Preparing the exit, and particularly imagining that you’re lifting up as much as grounding down, can make the evolution out of the pose as graceful as the move in.

Like getting out of a relationship, we need to leave our destinations with intention – getting in is the easy part! Next time, see about slowing down the release of the pose, giving it at least one full, long exhalation and paying full attention to how you’re going to land.

Fear of Stillness

Who really listens in Tadasana? Don’t we usually just view it as a staging pose, a brief recovery position or quick re-alignment before we move again?

It may not seem like a vinyasa, but staying in Tadasana for a number of breaths can be more challenging than even something like Utkatasana or Chair Pose, where the screaming of our thighs keeps us present to the moment in all its discomfort!

Holding the mind with the breath is more challenging when the body isn’t engaged in obvious effort. But like Dandasana, there’s more going on than meets the eye. Tadasana is an opportunity to really connect with the energy of the earth, to gain stillness on a geological scale, the timeless time that a mountain monumentalises.

What happens if we listen and breathe to our own bodies? Try living and breathing through these yoga transitions, take what you learn off the yoga mat, and let us know how it goes!