id you know...
The yoga postures you can’t do are of way more value to you than those you can?
So many yoga practitioners are focused on gaining the flexibility and strength and coordination to be able to master the postures of yoga. And while this might be rewarding for the ego, it misses the point regarding some of the most important aspects of your yoga practice.
There is indeed value in achievement--it can help us feel empowered
and capable contributors in the world, for example--there is also much value to be had from encountering our limitations, from coming face to face with what we cannot do.
And that's especially true when it's done consciously and with the right understanding.
More specifically, to understand how the limitations that we've been fighting against our entire lives are the very opportunities that we need in order to increase our capacity for peaceful and relaxed living.
We all know people who remain relatively unruffled no matter what life brings. Whether they're facing an argument with a spouse, a work conflict, or a five-mile long traffic jam, they seem undisturbed.
It's a peculiar trait that makes us want to know what these people have that we don't. And here it is, in a word: capacity.
These are people who possess an expanded capacity for life's challenges. Some are born with it, others have developed it, but in either case, it's something that allows them to remain relatively peaceful and at ease--even when things might be very far from how they want them to be.
Pretty cool trick, if you can pull it off.
The good news? We can all pull it off with just a little work.
Perhaps not surprisingly, your yoga practice is just the kind of "work" we need to make it happen.
It works like this: Think of how you build physical capacity in the gym. You do so by encountering physical challenge; for example, by lifting weight. When we challenge the body to do just a little more than it can comfortably do, over time the body adapts to be able to meet the challenge. By lifting weight consciously and regularly, we deliberately expand the body's capacity to lift weight.
The same process works with our mental and emotional capacity. And to a large degree, this is what your yoga postures are designed to do. Think about it. A well-crafted yoga practice asks us to do all manner of things we can't do (at least not perfectly). We are asked to bend in difficult ways, stand in uncomfortable positions, balance in impossible shapes, all while breathing deeply and trying to stay relaxed.
And in the same way that you need physical challenge to make your physical self stronger, you need mental and emotional challenge to make your mental and emotional self stronger.
When we encounter what we can't do in a yoga posture, the mental and emotional weight of frustration, disappointment, and irritation arise. And it's here, lifting this mental and emotional weight, where we can make our money with our practice.
So how do you lift emotional weight? It’s a bit counter-intuitive. Relax with it. Give it full permission to exist just as it is, if only for one breath. Then two. Then three.
Just like our muscles get stronger at the gym with every repetition, so too does our mental capacity.
When faced with wobbly balance, continue to do your best, but relax with the fact that balance is wobbly.
When you find you're the only one in class who can't perform the full version of the yoga posture, continue to do your best, and relax with the fact that physical limitations are present.
When you find yourself bored because the posture is too easy, continue to stay engaged, and relax with the fact that you aren't being physically challenged.
Again and again, we do our best and relax with what is happening.
It's the formula for growth and transformation that comes from seeing our limitations as the obstacles they truly are-opportunities in disguise.
Eric Walrabenstein is a best-selling author, ordained Yogacharya, and nationally-renowned educator in the fields of yoga and mind-body wellness. His work focuses on helping people to practically apply the lesser-known aspects of yoga and mindfulness to solve some of the most urgent and immediate problems of our time.
He is the founder of Yoga Pura, one of Arizona’s largest yoga wellness centers, the creator of the BOOTSTRAP Yoga System developed for the U.S. military and the BrightLife suite of programs for healing and empowerment. Eric's work has been widely featured in the media including on ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, Success magazine, Yoga Journal, and beyond and he's the host of the popular podcast This Perfect Moment. Learn more at www.ericwal.com.