According to the Yoga Sutras, the intention while practicing asana (the physical poses in yoga) is to find a place that is steady and comfortable. One way that this can be interpreted is to be fully present and alive in the now.
By learning to be present and to participate in a way that is both steady and comfortable means to free yourself from any thought or sensation that it brings about self judgment. This is true when practicing yoga postures but is also a way to practice yoga in your everyday life.
During our practice we may think things such as “I can’t do this posture” or “Everyone is so much more flexible than I am” or “I will never be strong enough to do that.” These thoughts are disruptive to our practice, carry negative energy and make it difficult to be present.
During your next yoga practice, try to abandon self-criticism. If you do criticize yourself or someone else, notice the judgment. Examine how it has affected your emotions, your body and your breath. Then let it go.
If you find you are forcing in a posture or in any part of your life, ask yourself if this is in the true spirit of yoga? When something is steady and comfortable, there is no forcing involved.
Acceptance Nurtures Contentment
Santosha is one of the niyamas (an observance of personal behavior) that makes up the eight-limbed path of yoga. It means contentment. Contentment requires present moment awareness and implies acceptance without resignation. By letting go of our attachment to the need for control, power, and approval, it becomes possible to be okay with things as they are right now.
Acceptance Brings About Awareness
According to Kripalu yoga, the first stage of yoga practice is to stretch and strengthen the body with awareness. As you encounter tension in your body, try remaining present, cultivating compassion and self acceptance. This allows you to release tension by relaxing and softening into the posture to feel and be with the sensation that is actually there.
I just got back from a yoga class where we practiced a posture that I find very difficult – Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon). For me, the balance is very challenging in this pose and it often leaves me feeling frustrated. I groaned inwardly when my teacher mentioned we were about to practice Half Moon. But then I decided to just be okay with whatever happened.
Well, I fell out of the pose…more than once… But it wasn’t a big deal because I had decided not to let it be. I actually laughed out loud and continued on to have a very rewarding practice. It felt good and I appreciate Sylvie for creating a class environment where I was comfortable enough to fall and laugh! (Check out her awesome classes at Core Elation if you are in the Ottawa area)
Practicing Acceptance in Asana
Choose a posture that you find challenging. Practice the posture with the intention of seeking ease, comfort and acceptance. The goal is not to be perfect but to practice acceptance. I think you will find this practice incredibly freeing.
Practicing Acceptance Beyond the Postures
Are there any areas in your life that you would like to change, places that feel neither steady nor comfortable? Perhaps you can start by making changes in your mindset, cultivating acceptance rather than resistance thereby making room for change to grow and happen.