Yoga differs immensely from other forms of workout on a physical level for many reasons, but today let's start with one very impactful reason. Yoga does not exist to help you look like others, to move you toward a body-expectation, on the outside or the inside. It is exactly the opposite. Yoga is meant to move you more toward you, more toward an internal connection so you can find the shape, breath and creativity that define you at your center - that special light that has always been there and that deserves nurturing and supporting.
There's a big catch to this method, though. In order to find what it is you need you have to find your truth. You have to see all of you - your strength and weakness, your ease and tension, even your lightness and your dark side. You may find that you tune into your breathing and calm right away in a seated forward fold, but when you try that inversion that you really feel you should be strong enough for you become frustrated and judge your abilities.
That's where the real work begins. Do you find strict determination to figure out how to nail that inversion? Or do you back off and decide it's not worth doing inversions because they are only for showing off anyway? Can you become aware of your approach and how it is affecting your general energy and health? Maybe your practice will eventually take you to a place where you decide to work consistently on this inversion but without pushing and without judgment along the way. Through this process you'll face so many emotions and challenges and each one will teach you a little more about yourself - about your ability to face challenge, about your ability to revise your plan, about your ability to face obstacles instead of turn away, and maybe even about your ability to see your approach to each of these areas.
This little experiential learning process happens repeatedly in so many ways every time we find our mat, no matter our level of asana practice. The beauty of the work is that your work belongs to you. The method, the approach and the path to that inversion will undoubtedly be different than that of another practitioner. Your job on your mat is not to successfully perform that inversion. Your job on your mat is to listen, feel, and find your way - your very own way toward where you are headed. In fact, that is so much your responsibility that you likely will never find that place where you are at ease (whether that's in the inversion or a modification or something different) without surrendering to what needs to be your very own journey. And don't be fooled, it might sound like a blissful path, but often the method and approach you need to take are contrary to what you expect, desire or are used to. The journey can be a struggle and difficult, but when you do find your ease, when you surrender to listening to what you need, you gain just a little more freedom.
Let's be very clear though - learning that inversion is not in itself freedom. You may end up deciding to work another posture first that will prepare you for that inversion, or you may take a completely different path. It's the process that has created the freedom. It's letting go of your habits so you could approach differently. It's reducing your self-judgement so you could adjust your method. It's actively deciding that the expectations of others on the outside don't matter, and that you have to work where you need to work instead. It might even be accepting that you have to change your physical approach to your practice so that you can actually breathe while in your movement.
Ultimately it's becoming comfortable with these choices and desiring them over the alternate habits you may have had before. It's a process, a never-ending process, but it's the true, real, path to what we view in yoga as freedom. It's finding your way to that piece of yourself that honors what you need and lets all of the external expectations, stresses and habits fall away. In yoga freedom is not in the gaining of knowledge or posture, it's in the releasing of internal restraints that are holding us back from our true self, our real center, and aligning our actions with that center.
At Yoga Life Center, LLC we offer a broad yoga program that incorporates foundational movement with exploratory movement to support your practice at all stages. Learn more about our unique programming on our website www.YogaLifeCntr.com. Check our classes here and events/workshops here - and join us to work on finding that inner freedom on your mat!
Written by Trisha Rachoy
Trisha is a co-owner and founder of Yoga Life Center, LLC. She is an ashtanga yoga practitioner, a mom of 4 kids and 2 dogs, and an attorney. She focuses on teaching ashtanga, hatha peak, and ropes classes at Yoga Life Center. She has used her yoga to heal both physically and emotionally. You can also find her leading arm balance and inversion workshops often, and hosting yoga challenges on social media. She is on Facebook as Trisha Rachoy and Instagram as @trachoy_yoga.