Change And What We Can Learn From Yoga…….

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Change is profoundly challenging. How many times in your life have you seen change rolling toward you, and deemed it unacceptable, not your plan? Found yourself working wildly to prevent or ignore it? Of course, it happened anyway. And how many times have you felt the urge, the deep internal pull, to change some lifestyle pattern—to lose 10 kilograms, to incorporate more yoga into your day, to get more exercise—and found yourself floundering, struggling, despite your commitment to yourself.

Consider the essence of a hatha yoga practice—the cultivation of presence in the moment, of mindfulness. From a self-discovery perspective, yoga poses (asanas) provide us with training and practice in learning how to work with change—by staying mindful.

When we enter a pose such as Triangle, we begin to seek out the physical edge of sensation. What should we do? We don’t want to push past it into a realm of willful effort, a path to injury and frustration, and we don’t want to pull away from it, a path to stagnancy. We want to rest right on that developmental edge of sensation. We hold the pose as the limits of our physical selves are stretched. We breathe and stay present. And what happens? The body relaxes and opens, naturally and in its own perfect timing.

The same thing happens in our minds when we’re in a pose. We get into Warrior I, and the mind begins to produce an earful of limiting beliefs. Perhaps they sound something like: This hurts. I’m bored. This teacher is talking too much. I can’t do this right. That guy is doing it better. The mind rambles, complains, and thinks about anything else except for what’s actually happening. So what do we do? We let the thoughts go, without further engaging them, without believing them. As we become aware of our minds, as we stay aware of the moment, of our breath, and of sensations, we relax, and change just happens. The mind releases.

This is how transformation occurs—through conscious presence in the moment. Through awareness and acceptance of exactly what is happening, the mindbody adjusts itself and opens up with perfection and grace.

This same model of transformation can be applied to off-the-mat changes—whether we are presented with them by life circumstances or they are changes that we want to initiate. We simply need to be present with where we are and what is happening in order to get to where we want to be. Using our will to change our behavior reminds me of Einstein’s wonderful concept that the mind that creates the problem cannot be the force that solves it. Yoga offers us something else, transformation at the core—change that is rooted deeply in our bodies, our minds, and our spirits.

So how can you work with the yoga of change? Practice mindfulness. Develop conscious awareness through yoga, meditation, any contemplative practice or activity that quiets your mind, restores the connection to your body, and opens your heart. And make a plan, with simple, incremental steps, heading in the direction you want to go— Let your actions be specific, measurable, time-bound, and wondrously delicious. Don’t simply take away behavior—give to yourself that which you are really longing for.

Written by Aruni Nan Futuronsky and published on kripalu.org/resources/yoga-change

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