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The Art of Letting Go
When I first started practicing
yoga I was so busy learning the asanas (postures) and trying not
to look like a beginner that I did not feel the connection between
yoga and my life. I was in the process of healing a severe back
injury for many years, and yoga felt like just another way for me
to open the body and become more flexible. As I fell under the spell
of yoga, my practice became regular and a very different picture
began to materialize. I realized that one of the techniques I use
every day in my work as a Spiral ReleaseT practitioner would benefit
my yoga practice and help me release on deeper levels.
The struggle that most
of us feel in everyday life is reflected in our practice and our
bodies. If you could reduce this struggle, even release it completely,
would you be willing? By incorporating this technique into your
yoga practice you will be able to deepen your practice: deeper stretch;
deeper concentration; deeper detachment. This is not something new
or even difficult, and some of you may be practicing it already
When we move into an asana
there are many changes taking place throughout our body and mind.
We begin to feel certain areas which we never felt before. We may
feel openness in one place and resistance in another. There may
be a sensation of discomfort or even pain. Do we go deeper or back
off? What is the appropriate thing to do? Are we thinking about
what we need to get done after class or an argument we had earlier
in the day? There are thousands of possible actions, thoughts, and
sensations that can occur. What we experience depends on where we
are in our practice and life. Sounds daunting to keep our awareness
on releasing, doesn't it?
Yoga is not meant to be
a struggle. By taking things one step at a time, keeping the ego
in check and being in the moment, we can elevate our practice to
new places. Using this technique can help you with all this and
more. So let's get to it.
Once you move into your
asana, begin by scanning the body for any place that you can relax
far from the area that has the most tension or discomfort. For example,
if you are in Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III Pose), you might be
feeling pressure or tension in the hip area of the standing leg.
As you start to scan your
body, you realize that your arms and shoulders are tense and that
they can be relaxed even though you are extending them. You may
also notice some tension in your big toe of the standing leg that
you can let go of. As you scan the body over and over again and
let go of tension, your attention moves away from the standing leg
hip and you are able to drop deeper into the asana. The tension
in the hip begins to ease up, maybe it disappears; ah yes, it's
You may have done this
before without consciously thinking about it. Once you begin to
work consciously with this technique you will be able to go deeper
and deeper. Pain, tension, and struggle will decrease and in some
cases disappear. Just as you bring your awareness back to your breath
over and over again, do the same with scanning the body and releasing
How can you apply this
to everyday life? Where can you let go? If you are sitting at the
computer do your shoulders become tight, rising up towards your
ears? Can you relax this area of your body while typing or only
after you stop? Are you even aware that the shoulders are tight?
If you are late for an appointment and stuck in traffic, where can
you let go? This practice is not only during yoga class; it can
be used everyday and in every moment. Living and thriving in life
is about letting go of everything that keeps us from being and living
in the moment. Once you start letting go in your yoga practice and
elsewhere, your life will begin to change in ways you did not anticipate.
Become aware, develop a clear intention of letting go, and see what
happens. Awareness is the key to releasing. We must become aware
of what is resisting and observe where this resistance occurs in
our actions before we can let go and change the patterns. Taking
steps towards living this way will allow you to practice the art
of letting go.
Over the years I've learned
to view my injuries as opportunities. Having experienced a severe
back injury at a young age and being told I would never recover
could have been a devastating event, especially for the alcoholic
that I was. But living in pain for the rest of my life was not an
option. I refused to believe what I was told and was guided to my
healing, as we all are every day. I learned from my injury and alcoholism
that if you use what is presented to you in your life to grow and
change then you can embrace the gift of healing on all levels. Pain
and fear are the embodiment of our limitations in conscious form.
These limitations are an illusion. We can choose to see this truth
and step outside of this illusion. Once the choice is made we will
be guided to our healing.
What is your first thought
when you sustain an injury during practice? Maybe it's, "oh no not
again?" Or did you blame the teacher for taking an adjustment too
far? For most of us our first thought is based on fear, which supports
the limiting or lower energies of the injury. Fear leads to anxiety,
which causes further tension and holding around the injury. This
can take us out of our regular practice and lengthen recovery time.
Can you think of an event
in your life that you thought was devastating or insurmountable?
When you look back do you see how much change and growth resulted
from that experience? You may be saying to yourself, sure that has
happened on an emotional level, but not with an injury. When you're
hurt it's a bad thing and your body is never the same again. Is
that really a true statement? Is that your reality?
My back injury is one
of the best things that ever happened to me, second only to my alcoholism.
I've experienced more personal growth and change in my life from
these two gifts than anything else in my life. They gave me my livelihood.
How many of you got involved with yoga because of an injury? Would
you have found yoga without it? When you are able to see injuries
as opportunities you can heal more quickly and experience less pain.
Holding in the body is
a reflection of events and experiences from our past. Most of us
live our lives and practice our yoga from this place. In each moment
we have the opportunity to choose to let go of this past and change
the way we move and live. If we are able to actually meet and face
what we experience in each moment, we learn that we create more
suffering in avoidance, and that most of what we fear is an illusion,
not reality. If we were truly living in the present moment there
would be little or no pain, lack of flexibility, suffering or struggle
in our lives or bodies. If you read this last statement and believe
it to be true or even think it might be possible then you have created
a beginning. We've all heard that thoughts create, but how many
of us pay close attention to our thoughts? If you cannot begin to
believe this to be true, you will have a thought that creates a
block from this becoming your reality. I offer this to you as something
to contemplate. Maybe it's true and maybe not, what do YOU think?
Our ego plays a huge role
in our lives, sometimes beneficial and at other times, negative.
When you compare yourself to others in a class or want to get to
a certain place with your practice, it's a sure thing that the ego
has stepped in and slowed your growth. It can also lead to injuries
that may end your practice. I once heard that EGO was an acronym
for Edging God Out. Practice from ego and you are doing the very
opposite of letting go.
Change your perception
and your thoughts will follow. Change your thoughts and your experience
will change. Change your experience and your life will change. When
we feel pain most of us react out of fear. This fear is based on
what we think might happen; it is not based in truth or reality.
By not reacting to the fear we can make a more rational decision
about our next step. Instead of reacting in the moment you can take
a step back and ask yourself what you can learn from the experience.
What is the next step?
and intention play a key role in yoga and life. Change any one of
these and you WILL change your life. Change them all and look out,
you may begin living the life you've always dreamed. Becoming artful
at letting go will lead to infinite possibilities.