Ever drag yourself to your yoga mat and feel depleted?
You push yourself through poses and breath exercises that have become your discipline, but today you feel like you’re pushing against the grain.
Is that a bad day on the mat? What went wrong?
When you’ve got nothing to give is an opportunity to receive.
Nothing is wrong with your practice. It’s a good day to practice receiving, not practice giving.
When we’ve got nothing to give – physically, emotionally, mentally – there is space for learning. Nothing left leaves us open, like a vacuum.
If you can allow it, there is less expectation, less demand or insistence.
Arriving at practice with nothing to give, other than attention, is a great place to begin.
Being open to beginning
We can’t fight or force our way into being peaceful.
Fighting against our own fatigue, pain or illness is a recipe for more suffering.
Yielding, or receiving, is a natural part of the cycle of life. From initiating (I-Ching, 1, Qian) to receiving (I-Ching, 2, Kun). “Peaceful continuance is beneficial.”
“If we start to lead we lose this Tao of being receptive.”
Harmony and balance are at the center of yoga and Qi practices (Taoism). We must strive for harmony, within ourselves, but also with the outer world.
This requires us to be aware of and find our right place within the cycles of nature – day and night; the changes of season; the cycles of the moon and the tides.
We cannot see at night as clearly in the new moon as we can in the full moon. Nor do we expect to. We feel a different energy in the morning than we do at night. As we should.
And when our body says it’s hungry we usually give it food, by the same token we don’t keep eating when we are full.
So it is with our yoga practice. When the body or spirit Is dull and spent, we don’t force it into poses that exhaust our energy.
We don’t push into a fiery breath or core-intensive posture. We don’t force a faster pace.
Try instead: (examples of receiving practices)
- Gentle practice. Slower pace.
- Reclining poses. (Bridge, legs up the wall, spinal twists)
- Remember, savasana is a pose. It’s not just the end of class. It’s not a throwaway or a mere gesture. It’s a complete practice unto itself.
- Reading your favorite teachers like Deepak Chopra, or Pema Chodron (or one of my teachers, Indu Arora).
- A silent meal or walk.
These are all great ways to meet yourself where you are.
We seek peaceful continuance.
Putting receiving into action can feel an oxymoron.
I like to think of it as opening the intake valve. We aren’t skilled at it. We are more skilled at doing, producing, accomplishing… the outtake valve. (fitting that, it’s also called the exhaust valve)
It’s especially hard when we are in a class that’s designed as a flow class, or power class. Or maybe you’re just next to someone who is really pushing the pace or doing a very difficult pose.
It’s a good time to ask yourself, am I here for them or me? What do I need right now, truly? Am I worth giving it to myself.
If we don’t start to practice softening on the yoga mat, where can we? At home? At work? In traffic?
Your mat is a safe and sacred space for exploring vulnerability and trust, fatigue and weariness, insecurity and doubt.
Every time we show up on our mat, we get to meet ourselves where we are, truthfully, unfiltered and unmasked.
And if our true self is craving ease and peace, a calm breath and quiet – are we brave enough to try to practice it?