If You Avoid It, It’s For You

Yoga is a vast universe. We all come to yoga for different reasons. We want to de-stress, get strong, soothe anxiety, heal an injury, etc. Then it hooks us.

There is an undeniable high and tranquility that, we sense, is our innate nature. And so we practice, again and again, diving into the facets that make us feel alive. And yet, there are so many aspects that we ignore. They may not be as pleasurable in the moment, but if we give them our full attention, that peace becomes where we live instead of being a place to arrive it.

I see it a lot in fitness-junkies, who love every minute of a physically challenging class, and then facing the stillness of savasana sends them right out the door. It’s fine to pick and choose, of course, and that’s part of the beauty of having so many options. Yoga can be whatever we want it to be. But know that whatever part of the practice you illuminate casts a shadow on what you ignore, and THAT is where your biggest lessons lie. That is the dry slice of the pie that you need to eat in order to look at all of yourself, be all of yourself and grow in beautiful ways you’ve never imagined.

Flexibility and flow come easily to me and I derive deep pleasure from diving into rhythm, improvisation and breath. But when I turn around and face discipline and strength in the eye? Gulp. Deep breath. Okay, let’s do this. I see where my limits are. I see where it bleeds out into my life. I have to face my subconscious beliefs about discipline and control. Yuck, but Yes!

There are two common, linked phrases among yogis: “If you avoid it, it’s for you” and “The pose begins when you want to leave it”. Part of the work of Asana is that it brings discomfort to our door. And sure, we can skirt around it by focusing on the person next to us or taking shortcuts, but no true development happens until you decide to be present and drink in this moment. Let yourself be here. Now. Face your shadow. It’s where your greatest magic and message are nesting, waiting for you to crack them open.

Special Place Visualization

One of my favorite visualizations to guide students through during yoga nidra or savasana is one where we wade through the river of life, swimming past the rapids of bills, mother-in-laws, coworkers, and friends; we get out of the river and stumble upon a beautiful place.

This place can be anywhere – your bed, the Grand Canyon, a cafe in Paris, a jungle from your imagination – whatever feels most relaxing and comforting to you. I adore hearing what students’ special place is. A place where the quiet spaces of your mind can expand, your body can relax, and most importantly, where you feel safe.

We rest in this place, fully, soaking in the sounds and smells, looking around and even feeling the ground. We GO there.

My place is a wild meadow filled with lavender. Maybe it’s by the ocean, maybe there are deer grazing nearby. I go to this place everytime I offer this visualization, and when I’m having trouble falling asleep or quelling my anxiety. It’s automatic now.

Last night I was taking a walk and I passed a house with a beautiful garden, abundant with lavender. Despite being in the middle of town with my feet on the concrete and cars whizzing by, I was immediately transported to the meadow. Anchors lifted off my shoulders, a smile lifted the corners of my mouth, and my fast-paced walk suddenly transformed into a lovey, twirly stroll.

I can’t even verbalize all the ways that mindfulness enhances life. It’s not just the effects you feel shortly after doing it, it’s the pathway that’s formed in your mind. Going to that place over and over becomes as easy as walking to your front door, and suddenly, you’re at peace. Anywhere, anytime.