I’ve been doing a lot of Anusara yoga this week, which means instead of listening to the Beatles during class, I’m listening to a teacher talk — a lot.
Now, because it is approaching the New Year, there needs to be Big Lesson about the New You and how you can find it through your practice.
The idea of letting-go-of-stuff-that-no-longer-serves-you is a big thing in Yoga all year long, but it is especially emphasized now because you get a National holiday to officially let go of stuff. Since you have the calendar and a big shiny ball in Times Square on your side, it’s very important to focus really hard on something you want to get rid of and then let go really really hard so it disappears from your life in 2011.
When my teacher started class today, she told us that when you let go of something, you make room for your desires and wishes to enter into your life. She told us to think of both the thing we wanted to let go of, and the wish that would come true if we did.
I couldn’t really think of anything I wanted to let go of, so when she said, “or you can just open up yourself to a sign and let the Universe give you a sign,” I decided to go with that option.
Then she continued, “So today, we’ll focus on drawing very closely into the midline and finding the structure and stability that will enable us to let go and truly expand.”
It occurred to me that it would be hard to simultaneously draw inward while waiting wide open for for the Universe to infuse me with a message. I realized that I did have something to let go of: my refusal to focus energy on getting grounded in favor of waiting for the wind to come and blow me somewhere exciting.
As I’m sure is obvious to anyone who knows me or has read this blog–I sort of enjoy chaos. Chaos makes good stories. Chaos keeps things interesting. Chaos keeps you busy without forcing you to make any big decisions or commitments.
From irrevocably bad hair days to eternally broken hearts, I’ve spent a better part of my adult life thriving on catastrophe–or the illusion of it. But it’s becoming increasingly obvious that while it’s great to have a ear open for the suggestions of the Universe, when the Universe offers you stability, sometimes you have to accept that, too.
And accepting stability means stabilizing yourself –or drawing into the proverbial midline. Working with this teacher, I’ve been able to get into some really expansive poses this week. That’s something I can count on– as long I continue following the instructions and creating strong, centered muscular energy.
Of course, it’s a lot easier to pull your feet isometrically together than it is to welcome new foundational structures into your real life. In my real life, I am panicked at the prospect of consistency because I think it means boredom.
But it didn’t seem so bad in yoga. Maybe it wasn’t in real life either. So I decided to let go of going rogue– of rebellion for its own sake.
I didn’t worry about it too much until the time came for shoulder stand.
“Don’t do this if you’re on your Lady Holiday,” the teacher said. “Let me know and I’ll give you something else to do.”
Now, I have never followed the rule of not inverting when I’m on my “lady holiday.” I’ve heard it’s just some sexist rule and there is nothing dangerous about it, but I’ve also heard it’s not the best idea. In honor of my new intention, I decided that I would follow the rules. Since the whole class was lying on their backs, I quietly raised my hand.
I expected to her come over and talk to me after everyone had gone up into shoulder stand, but instead she called out, “Oh, RB! You! You can go over there and put your legs up the wall.”
I was mortified. Did she really have to announce it to the class? Desperate for an escape route, I whispered, “Actually maybe I can do shoulder stand.”
“No….well..ok….what day are you on?” Her voice was at full volume.
I held up my pointer finger.
“ONE!” She shouted. “You’re on day one?? No way, no shoulder stand.”
I shot up and grabbed my mat, ready to put at least 10 ft in between me and the 8 strangers who now knew that I started my period today. But the teacher stopped me in my tracks as she called across the room, “”I mean, you don’t want to reverse the flow of blood, do you? Or maybe you do? Do you?”
I locked eyes with her and realized she was waiting for an answer. “Um, no. I don’t want to reverse the flow.”
I went and put my legs up the wall and then teacher came over and rested her arm on my flexed feet. “I’m sorry, it’s just my training. We learned that you’re not supposed to so that’s what I teach.”
“Is it really that bad?” I asked, since I had no where to go and no more pride.
“Well, it does reverse the flow of blood. I don’t know if that’s bad.”
She walked away and I was settling into my profound sense of mortification when I started to laugh.
I’d started the class worrying that if I set things up correctly, my life would get boring. But of course, trying to follow the most basic rule had lead me into yet another completely humiliating, eventful episode. Even if my greatest desire is a life filled with ridiculous stories, it doesn’t mean that I should somehow make myself a ridiculous person — or deliberately reverse the flow.
Proper alignment sets you up for what you want– period. (no pun.) No matter what I want, the priority is still creating internal stability. Thinking that stability will make my life boring is a product of fear and weakness, not bravery or confidence.
The idea that we need to create our own chaos to keep things lively is perhaps the greatest instance of human hubris imaginable. Life is always going to be messy, unpredictable and eventful. Making things messy from the get go is just a way to try to control the future and pretend that nothing can catch us off guard.
The scary reality is that you can do everything right and things can still go completely wrong. The scarier reality is probably that you can do everything right and things will be better than you imagined. The scariest reality is that most times, you have no way of knowing which one of those it’s going to be.
But ultimately, to step into the flow of Grace (number one principle of Anursara) you have to stop fighting against yourself. Reversing the flow of your own life isn’t necessarily dangerous, but why would you want to? You are stuck with you, for better or for worse. It’s your responsibility to do your best to make it “for better.”
So this year, if you let go of one battle, let it be the one against yourself. It may sound hard, but actually, it’s a lot easier than letting go of anger at your annoying neighbor, and will probably yield greater results.