Nirodhaḥ Yoga Blog
Sail Through Change
“All is connected… no one thing can change by itself.”
- Paul Hawken
Is there anything harder than change? Even positive changes can create inner resistance.
Think about any time you've tried to make changes to improve your health. Or made a big move to another city or home. Or changed jobs or even your career. All are changes we may deeply desire and yet each comes with inherent challenges.
On a personal level, my yoga practice has led me to and through many challenging changes. I suspect many of us have had to confront and change various uncomfortable thoughts and behaviors that were brought to light through our practice of this great art and science.
Although yoga is a practice that leads us to develop greater joy, that doesn't mean these changes are always smooth sailing. Some of the most uncomfortable moments I've encountered through my practice have led me to the most meaningful insights.
In fact, the first time I connected with my practice on an emotional level, I wept through an entire class. After class, I felt like a new person.
There are times, laying in savasana that I have felt a deep sense of discomfort. With time and lots of practice, this feeling rarely surfaces in me anymore.
And I have had personal patterns pointed out to me by my teacher that truly stung. But her loving refinement is what has helped me start to dis-identify with the quagmire of attraction and aversion that is the mind.
Three years ago, we opened 5KY's physical location after three years of being a mobile-based business, and prior to that, four years of private practice working within clinics. Before 1818 Belmont, my focus was centered on opening a yoga studio, hoping this would stabilize my business. Only after the studio opened did I fully realize how many changes we would have to navigate before any kind of stability could be achieved.
I won't lie, there have been times the uncertainty of all this change has left me wondering if I should continue. I'm so glad I did. Witnessing the blooming of the studio and all the relationships contained within over the last three years has been joyous. That is not even mentioning the joy I feel in being a part of this community during the current moment of turmoil and chaos.
We are all living through a time of tremendous and tumultuous change. Whatever you were doing last year, I think I can safely bet that you did not envision this year being so vastly different from 2019.
We're simultaneously hoping for stability after all the continual change and so eager for things to change back to what they were or some semblance thereof.
Luckily, periods of change - whether personal or worldwide - can usher in greater security and stability. We just need to learn how to harness the power of change for good. How to sail through change effortlessly?
Breathe Through Fear
The most immediate remedy we have available in times of distress is our breath. Whether we are conscious of it or not, our breath is always changing. It is an easy metaphor for our experience of external changes.
The breath comes and goes. We cannot breathe in without breathing out first, and we cannot breathe out without an in-breath preceding.
One of my very favorite passages in the Bhagavad Gita concerns Karma Yoga, which is the yoga of action and renunciation. Krishna tells Arjuna, “some offer the out breath as sacrifice to the in breath, and the in breath to the out breath.” (4.29) Swami Satchidananda clarifies in his commentary on this passage, “Your breathing itself becomes a sacrifice. It’s happening anyway; just become conscious of it, that’s all.” (The Living Gita, p.62)
In the same way, in order to make space for the new, we may have to sacrifice certain things. Even if we know it’s time to let them go, the change leads to the unknown and may feel scary.
Breathing well directly calms the nervous system, preparing us to meet this change. It also reminds us that giving and receiving in equal measure is the law of nature.
Attend to the Present Moment
Another deceptively powerful tool we have in our arsenal is mindfulness. If we could just stop and observe for a few moments, we may be able to make skillful choices even in the midst of change or difficulties.
One technique that I like to use is from the mindfulness meditation teacher Tara Brach. She suggests the acronym RAIN when tending a disturbed mind. Recognize, allow, investigate, and nurture.
"Recognize what is happening." This is as simple as naming it: “I’m worried,” “I feel nervous,” etc.
"Allow the experience to be there, just as it is." It may feel uncomfortable at first, particularly if we’ve been resisting the feeling that is disturbing us. But when we give permission for the feeling to exist, some of the power is taken away, and we might be able to lessen its grip.
"Investigate with interest and care." Compassionately delving into our thoughts and feelings to get to the root of them is the way we can make changes to our emotional reactions. We can ask why do we feel that way? In what circumstances? What events in our past have shaped our reaction here?
"Nurture with self-compassion." We need to offer ourselves the same care that a parent would give a child that was upset by change. As we release the fear bit by bit, we make space for courage.
Trust Yourself and if You Can’t Do That, Trust the Process
Trust is a major part of a yogin’s Sadhana (daily practice). Why else would we get up at the crack of dawn to meditate or stop at the studio after a long day at work for a hatha yoga class or dedicate ourselves to the study of the Bhagavad Gita, Yoga Sutras, or any other texts of wisdom?
We trust that this process will refine us. After a while of practicing consistently, we can feel the changes in our bodies. This gives us the courage to continue going deeper, revealing new challenges and changes over time.
Admittedly, at times it can be challenging to trust ourselves. To me, this is particularly evident at times of great upheaval and re-ordering in my life.
So in that case, I trust in the process and method of Yoga. When I trust in Yoga, I don’t have to rely on only my own experience. I can see that anyone practicing consistently and dedicatedly will receive the benefits of that practice. It’s simply cause and effect.
I observe these changes for good happening in the people I practice with. And I know that I can trust in the process, which is inevitably fluid.
I am going to challenge myself to accept the fluidity of our present moment and welcome these changes, whatever they may be. This could be a moment of progress, where we create a better world. Because things can't get better unless they change.
The only thing harder than living through change is waiting for change to come. So let's embrace this moment and use it for the greater good.
Swami Sachidananda. The Living Gita: The Complete Bhagavad Gita. Buckingham, VA: Integral Yoga Publications, 1988.
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Just some thoughts about yoga as I go...
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