Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Winds Are Changing

 I spent most of high school living, and most of college professing the philosophy that change is impossible in some cases, and pointless in the rest.  I wasn't interested in striving for excellence.  My 3.5-3.7 was quite good enough for me.  I accepted my flaws: inflexibility, a crooked nose, and a big ass physically, self-centeredness and vanity where my personality was concerned, with a certain resigned grace.

This may seem obviously wrong: change is all around us!  The seasons, the cycles of our bodies, our relationships, the way bread goes stale...change is the rule, not the exception.  Well, I had a hard time in college, ok?  Blind faith in the concept that I could depend on thing to stay the same was very comforting for me in the midst of loneliness and confusion.  My relationship with my friends in Ohio was exactly the same, because we weren't ready to let ourselves grow and change yet.  The people I knew in college seemed determined to make college thirteenth grade and keep the exact same relationships, too.  Those things seemed vastly different to me at the time, but you know, you're not nearly as smart at eighteen as you think.  Or twenty-something for that matter.

I started yoga when I was eighteen, and my personal yoga trajectory was such that by the end of college I was beginning to loosen my iron grip on my ever so comforting philosophy of complacency.  I was comparing it to what I was hearing, and what I was experiencing in my yoga classes, and it wasn't stacking up in the neat and tidy manner it always had before.

Maybe the breakthrough was the moment I closed my eyes and relaxed into my forward fold...and experienced the completely alien sensation of my toes beneath my fingers: irrefutable proof that my hamstrings were changing, lengthening, and softening.  And my mind followed suit. 

Change wasn't always easy, let alone comfortable.  I spent Lent of my last year of college questiong my society-fed beliefs that skinniness, health, and moral supremacy are directly related.  Those beliefs collapsed quite easily once I looked at them clearly, and left me reeling on some very unsteady terrain. 

When I started doing aerial, the changes came fast at first!  Intense pain, followed by stronger muscles and amazing abilities.  Continuing to urge my muscles to let go and lengthen has been a VERY painful process, but the results are there, slowly but surely.

Now, I worship the divine cycles that guide our lives, easy to follow roadmaps to the beautiful changes we encounter all the time: arise, abide, dissolve; birth, growth, death; and of course, ever on and up in a spiral to the Heavens...The teaching of yoga that everything changes, and we have to accept that fact to find happiness was a realization that brought relief and joy: I could change!  I could be better!

Embracing change has enabled me to open and release when it's time to let go of something I've loved or trusted, whether it's a style choice that isn't reflecting who I am and how I want to be perceived, or a pattern of behavior that's damaging my marriage.  Being open to change, to the way things inevitably come and go, allows you to live with more freedom and happiness.

Of course, sometimes it's knowing that things will change that makes us cringe: like the way our bodies change as we age.  Our skin softens and surrenders to gravity, just like our hamstrings in a long forward bend.  Our hair releases its color and blends in with the earthy neutrals of a winter day, just like our favorite, over-washed pair of jeans.  Our muscles stop growing, and slowly start to shrink away from this earth, as we ourselves will do one day.  It doesn't have to be scary, or depressing.  Of course we mourn strength and stamina we once had, but we can equally embrace a time when taking it easy is is perfectly alright, when experience and perspective lends wisdom and ease to challenges.

There are things, too, that won't change.  My nose is still crooked, and though I've slimmed down all over as I build up more muscle, my ass is still big relative to everything else.  When dealing with changes I'm not too keen on, or things that I'd like to change that I can't at this time, that resigned grace that got me through my first couple years of college still serves me well, and it can serve you well, too!  Just balance it with openness and optimism.  Place your faith in the belief that natural changes are always for the better, and part of you that's really you, deep down, never changes.

Experience daily changes, and practice adapting to them with grace in your Asana practice.  Give yourself the freedom to need a prop one day and not the next, to be able to make a shape one day, and not the next, to do fifty chaturangas one week, and two the next.  Practice loving yourself, looking for that part that is the same, regardless of your outside circumstances.
Live Omily,
~em

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