Tuesday, March 24, 2009


there's a yoga studio in town that regularly sends out an electronic newsletter, which I receive in my email inbox every month.
the owner always writes a few paragraphs about what's on his mind, and then lists all the activities, conferences, and special classes offered in the upcoming months.
sometimes I skim through the whole thing, and sometimes it's an automatic delete. and every once in a great while, I actually read what the owner has to say.
this month I read his column, and took from it one beautiful concept, that of softening your position.

I've written before about how our yoga instructors often tell us to relax our gaze, which to me means to both broaden your view and to let go of a focus, to just let everything sit and float around you. it both decreases and increases your awareness, moving it inward instead of outward.
but softening your position hit me as a beautiful way to move through yoga class, and through life.

yoga teaches us that the breath is more important than anything, that you should give up the pose before you give up your breathing pattern. (I still cannot reach this point: I am too stubborn to give up on a position just because I am breathing too quickly.) the next important thing is your position: that you reach it and hold it to the best of your ability at that given moment. our job is to keep the integrity of the pose, whether or not we can fully position our body as is ideal. for me, that means the tightness in my hips or the rigidity of my lower back keep me from going as deep into a pose as I someday hope to. and then there are my shoulders, and the stiffness in my upper back . . . (this morning I decided that I really need yoga every single morning of my life, and that this will be my future-looking goal. it would be so very nice to be flexible and move fluidly and gracefully without difficulty.)

but back to positions.
softening them, that is.

of course this begins in yoga, to take the position you have just tweaked your body into holding, and then to relax into it. this might seem contradictory, but it's all about taking the tension out of your muscles while asking them to keep steady and firm.
when I extrapolate this into the world (as I am wont to do) something incredible happens: I see us all becoming more patient, more kind, more willing. when we stop holding onto things so rigidly we become easier to be around. what if each single being on this earth relaxed their grip on their version of reality? what if we all softened our positions, just a little, on the things we hold so tightly? what if we could all step outside of ourselves for just a brief moment and look upon what it is we grasp in our own little vises?

I've noticed that when I can convince myself to soften my position --- once I've found it --- in yoga, I breathe better. when I am tense, my breath comes too quickly or not at all, as I squeeze and miserly hold it in. but when I can remember to remind myself to soften, my breath comes more easily, and more evenly.
I envision this as my grand experiment: I teach the world to soften its position, and in turn, the world settles into a simpler, more even, more productive, gentle breathing pattern.

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