A friend of mine recently took a trip to stay at an Ayurvedic center in hopes of
addressing some chronic health problems. She was on a pretty extreme exclusion diet when she arrived and her unaware but good-intentioned roommate offered her some chocolate. My friend was really distressed about not being able to eat it, almost to the point of tears. When one of the doctor’s heard about this, he told her she should just eat the chocolate. His point was that if not eating the chocolate was causing so much distress for her, the exclusion diet wasn’t really being fully effective.
This is an important idea to help us guide our choices in our yoga practice. When the postures or the sequence or the meditation feels like a punishment, the whole practice has diminishing returns.
Now this doesn’t always mean that our practice is always supposed to be just rosebuds, butterflies, and savasana. Sometimes gnarly stuff gets churned up. And that’s part of yoga, too. You have to sift out and sort through the things you encounter – physically, emotionally, and thought-wise.
But the spirit in which we encounter and deal with whatever comes up really does matter and here’s where intention becomes the most valuable to us.
We can hold up our experience on the mat against the reasons that we come to yoga. If they aren’t meshing up, we get to decide if our practice needs to change or if our intention needs to change.
Sometimes what we encounter can tell us if we have to back off (restoratives, anyone?) or if we need to push a little harder to get over whatever inertia has built up.
Rod Stryker once told a group of us that in an ideal world, he would advertise a class as advanced power vinyasa and then make everyone do restoratives the whole time.
Sometimes the things that attract us aren’t that helpful. It’s good to mix it up and see what happens.
I wrote a whole blog post about aversion and attraction not too long ago. In many ways spring is more of a “new year” than when we celebrate the change on the calendar year in January. It’s the rebirth of nature, marked by a strong upward movement, as evidenced by my daffodils shooting up, almost defiant, in our recent unseasonal snow.
It’s a really perfect time to check in with ourselves, our intention, our attention, our practice as a whole. What’s your plan today? Where are you holding yourself back? How can yoga help you figure out what will serve you best?
Keep asking and seeking, yogis. That’s the real practice of yoga. I’d be honored to help you in the journey. Check out my new spring class schedule and come meet me on the mat.