By: Danielle Wilson
When I teach, I frequently remind students to make intuitive choices, rather than merely relying on patterns, habits, and the muscle memory that comes along with them. A great example of not moving intuitively can be found at that point in practice when you lift your hips and press your hands into that first glorious downward facing dog! Often, in that moment, teachers typically suggest you “take some time to move as you need.” I’ve learned to tread mindfully through this statement, as both a teacher and student, because it typically results in the same old sad, partial-effort pedaling of the feet—correct me if I’m wrong, but this is a total yogi go-to! The thing is, we’ve gotten used to it, so eventually we arrive in a place where we just move through that moment the same way every time. But let’s pause to think about the initial prompt: “move as you need.” How realistic is it that your body is calling for the same limpy (I know, now I’m just teasing you) pedaling of your feet every time you practice? The truth is, it’s not! So, we are doing ourselves a disservice by slipping into habits based off of limited knowledge or consideration of other options.
There are some sensations in the body we experience on a fairly regular basis—it’s like the chronic stuff: tight hamstrings, a core that just never wants to engage (and then stay engaged), sticky, crunchy shoulders, a frustrated lower back. It’s understandable that we’d create a pattern around addressing these areas when we get that sweet moment of freedom amidst our flow—in this instance, maybe you do honestly need to pedal your feet and work out the body gunk every time, but the true question is, do you just do it because that’s what you do, or do you do it because your body is like, “yasss give it to me!”?
Given that our bodies are in a constant state of evolution, there is so much more we can do to bond with our sense of inner knowing, acknowledge it, and respond promptly. Maybe you slept strange and your back or shoulders need a little extra love? Perhaps you up’d your step game with an extra-long walk or run earlier in the week, and your hamstrings are screaming “stretch me out!” Pausing to connect internally, and then genuinely listening to what it is your body needs is precisely what yoga is all about. Yoga—union, the very word itself describes a connection that exceeds the realm of comfort zones. Once the connection with self is established, the real work can begin! Whether it’s physically on your mat or mentally/emotionally/socially in life, this is the work of honoring your divine intuition—something that requires present awareness and a willingness to remain open-minded, and -hearted, to attain. Once we do, our intuition will guide us through life and practice with ease.
I am a deeply self-reflective person. In an effort towards continuous growth, I am known to live in a state of introspection. My constant self-observation and inquiry have led me to many-a-profound-realizations. Although, for the most part, these epiphanies have held their weight in truth, I’ve had to learn that they don’t always apply. Similar to the flimsy foot pedal (I’m not stopping with this, if you couldn’t tell), even moments that are deeply reflective of each other don’t always require the same mindset or solution. In fact, the expectation that something which worked out well for us in the past will continue to work again and again often results in stagnation, judgement and disappointment.
I have a way of wanting to believe that my epic realizations are now foundational teachings for my life—every time. I get so excited to see the world differently, that I buckle down and arrest myself to my newfound principles. Recently, I’ve recognized how detrimental this can be to my state of balance, peace, and growth. Creating “laws” out of the way we like to do things, or the manner in which our efforts have worked in our favor before, sets us up for harsh judgement and negative self-talk when things don’t go our way. I’ve watched as I get painstakingly frustrated with myself, and often with life, as my “fool-proof” ways of navigating whatever happens to be my point of focus straight up don’t work, OR, worse, in this particular moment, I can’t live up to it.
Just like the cells inside our body, life is in constant evolution. It’s also quite cyclical. So, although feelings, events, or states of being might prove reminiscent of each other, you can always expect a twist beneath the surface—big or small. These nuanced fluctuations are the reason why it is so important to pause, connect, listen, and respond. That pause is a moment of pure magical empowerment. It places you outside of yourself in a way that actually connects you deeper within yourself. It is the space that allows you to recognize your knee-jerk reaction and decide if that aligns with what you truly need or not. This is self-love. This is self-care.
How can you integrate a moment of pause into your life in order to connect with the authentic you and serve that being with honor, compassion, and respect? Try putting it into practice on your mat this week!