Slow down and everything you are chasing will come around and catch you – John De Paula
As I sat cross-legged on my yoga mat — eyes gently closed, hands resting on my thighs, palms facing up towards the sky — I listened as my instructor set her intention for our class. Inspired by her raw, honest and genuine dharma talk, I began to make a mental checklist of all the reasons I enjoy her teaching style. Sure, she’s kind, humble, and never fails to make her students break a sweat, but there’s more to her class than just that…
I pondered this for another moment before ultimately turning my attention back to her as she instructed us to transition to the next pose.
After an hour of focusing on a pretty creative and rather challenging series of sun salutations, complete with headstands, arm balances, and standing poses, it was finally time to lay back, relax and let it all go.
With my eyes once again closed, palms up towards the sky, the answer to my question suddenly dawned on me. The difference in this instructor’s class isn’t so much in the poses she teaches, but rather everything in between. It’s the way she connects the dots, the way she links one pose to the next. The carefree, effortless, and innovative way she approaches transitioning.
The actual asanas in yoga class are the tough part — the part that takes a lot of focus, attention, and sometimes even a little discomfort and pain, but it’s that time in between poses, when we’re transitioning from one position to the next, that we get to move a little freer, breathe a little deeper, smile a little wider, and laugh a little harder. It’s these moments, in between poses, that test our patience and teach us the meaning of perseverance. That bridge the gaps and bring us peace and clarity. It’s in these moments, in between poses, that we are truly able to enjoy and appreciate the practice.
As a yoga instructor myself, I typically focus a great deal on the big asanas in my class and practice — the down dogs, warriors, inversions, and balances — but I often neglect to honor the transitions, which are equally important.
How we transition from one asana to the next says a lot about how we transition through life. Are we taking our time and enjoying the process?
Or are we rushing through our practice, only focusing on what’s ahead? Are we brave enough to add our own special touch to our transitions? Or are we too concerned with the people to our right and left?
It’s so easy to get caught up in the highs and lows of life, the “headstands” and “child’s poses” if you will, and forget to enjoy all the little things in between. The smaller, less significant, yet equally important moments of our days that allow us to get from point A to point B, from one asana to the next.
When we think about it, life is really just one long transition. We spend more time preparing for a pose then we do hold it. More time working towards a goal then we do celebrate when we achieve it. More time on the road, then at our final destination.
Sometimes our transitions last a little longer than we anticipate, sometimes they don’t take quite long enough. Sometimes they’re a bit messy, causing us to trip or stumble along the way. Other times, they’re smooth as silk, flowing together seamlessly.
Regardless of what our transitions look or feel like, one thing is for certain —they’re an inevitable part of the process.
It’s natural to want to skip ahead to the next chapter, or fast-forward from one advanced asana to another, but by doing so, we’re ultimately depriving ourselves of the opportunity to enjoy the present and appreciate the transition.
After all, life isn’t always about nailing the headstand; sometimes it’s just about learning to get into and out of it gracefully instead.