I have discovered something interesting about my practice, well, ok, I should say, I have discovered yet another interesting aspect to my practice, because lets face it, there are too many lessons to be learned on the mat, and each one is a powerful gift. This new little gem I have uncovered is the ability to open up when the storm is at it’s worst.
You see, I have noticed a pattern in my teaching; whenever the weather is gloomy, rainy, and even torrential, most people, my self-included will desperately want to curl up under the covers and disappear for a while. And it is a natural response, but the funny thing is that every single time the weather has been “unpleasant” while I have had the honor of teaching somewhere, I have refused to teach comforting, safe, or sheltered poses (a.k.a no child’s pose, no kurmasana, no happy baby, you get the idea)
It is not that I don’t like these poses, because quite frankly, I think I could live in most of them forever, especially in kurmasana, and be perfectly content. I don’t actually know if I can’t explain where the feeling came from, but from the very first time I was blessed to teach during a rainy day, I knew what my students really needed was the opposite from what they wanted. So, I have gotten into the habit of teaching loads of heart openers, hip openers, shoulder openers and core related poses to my students on these days.
The initial response from most students is that of resistance. They all tense up when they hear the words hips, shoulders and heart because at that moment all they really want to do is be safe, and comfortable. The last thing they are looking for is a confrontation with the “self” (which is very common in these poses, especially all the hip openers) nor are they seeking release. No, all they want is a nice hot cup of hot cocoa and a movie to watch as they curl up under their beds and wait for the “storm” to pass.
But no such luck in my class little yogis, all I have done during these days is bring you up close and personal to all those little things you need to let go of in order to grow and bloom like the lovely little lotus flowers that you are.
You may think this is rather cruel of me, and considering my previous statement (where I confess I have no clue where this impulse comes from) you may also think I am a tad delusional and probably need to spend less time meditating and more time grounding down to earth and reality. However, you would be wrong.
I am not torturing my students, nor am I seeking to get them to (please excuse this horrid choice of words, as I know they are revolting) “get their work out in” (ew, I absolutely hate saying those words when it comes to yoga… eek… but, back to the topic at hand). I am, in fact, doing quite the opposite.
I am seeking ways to allow my students to really make a body/mind/spirit connection. And as a result, I am trying to break them out of their comfort zone and allow them to view the world from a different angle, because, lets face it, the world never looks quite as resplendent or awesome as it does when you have seen it though fresh eyes. And the thing about being able to see the world through fresh eyes is that you are unable to do so when you have been staring at the same thing, from the same spot, for years, and years.
That is where the gloom comes in, because the truth is, if all our life was filled with sunshine and rainbows, we would never in a million years be able to see anything differently. We would never be able to grow or learn, we would take things for granted and imagine that our perspective was all that existed and mattered in this world. If all we had in our lives was sunshine, lollipops and unicorns, then we would be stuck in lame, closed off and safe limbo for life. We would have no reason to do hip, heart, or shoulder releasing asanas, all we would do all day would be comfort and ground and rest. What kind of boring, stuck on first gear life would that be?
I know, I know, it seems like I am over exaggerating but think about how amazing your trials and tribulations are. Think about how horrible the earth would be with no rain, with no thunder, no chaos, no chance for regeneration and rebirth and order and creation.
How horrible would it be for you to never learn a lesson, to never be able to say, I have discovered something new about myself and my world because of my trials and tribulations, and have become a better being for it.
If we were closed off to our trials and tribulations, if all we did was run away from them and hide and seek shelter when the going got tough, instead of riding out the storm and learning to grow from all that seems to be so horrible in our lives, where would we be? Who would we be?
We have to find that balance in our lives, we have to be able to say, this hurts, this is terrifying, this makes me want to cry and scream and run for the hills, but I will be open to the fact that it is necessary and it is changing me for the better.
We cannot get stuck in the mud when things are unpleasant. We cannot become a lovely lotus flower if all we do is dig deeper into the mud. We cannot get stuck and trapped and we cannot give up just because it is too painful to keep going, or because the storm is so daunting we think we will never survive it.
What if every person who ever had his or her heart broken remained stuck in that pain forever? What if all they did day after day, year after year was mull over the pain, and cower at the thought of it becoming worse or replicating? What if no one ever realized that enduring tragedy was an opportunity for greatness, or that remaining open to all that surrounds us, scares us, and sometimes even hurts us was a beautiful gem in disguise.
If we stay closed off to all that life brings us, be it good, seemingly bad, joyful, painful, exhilarating or terrifying, we would never in a million years be able to say that we are alive. Because life is not all pink, life is all shades of light and dark, and everything in between. With out bitterness, all the sweetness in the world would be meaningless, with out rain no amount of sunshine would ever be worth taking in. And with out strife, and pain, and fear, life would have absolutely no joy, no courage, no passion, no inspiration, no love, it would be devoid of it all, and it would not be life, it would be nothing.
So, why do I take my students on a journey of opening when it is raining and all they want to do is seek comfort? Because comfort does not engender growth. Comfort, leaves no room for faith, or courage, or playfulness. Comfort only leads back to where it started, it does not move, it does not breathe life into you, it just makes you feel relatively safe right where you were when you started your journey.
And the loveliest part about these classes is that at the end of their journey, the students are able to leave the studio lighter, more radian and more alive than when they came in. They become able to look the storm in the eye, open up to whatever it may bring (with out letting the storm push them down) and blossom just a little bit more.
So now the question becomes, can you take that off the mat? Can you remember to open up when things are gloomy? Can you allow your self to bloom?
It won’t be an easy process, I can promise you it will be tough, and there will be times when opening up may be so tough, you may not manage it, but if you can remember to try to open up, even the littlest bit, you will have already made a huge change, and you will be just a tad more alive and a tad more free than you would have been, had you remained in your comfort zone.