Shaken, Not Stirred: The Yoga of Being Comfortable with the Uncomfortable
First Brexit, now Donald Trump. With news and information coming at us from all corners of the globe and faster than any other period in human history, at times it feels like our world is spinning out of control. Whether that’s true or it’s simply our perception of what’s true, this feeling of instability actually gives us a chance to practice our off-the-mat yoga.
You may have heard yoga defined as ‘union’. I think what that means for us today is a burgeoning awareness; a greater intimacy and connection with yourself and everything that’s happening right here, right now. But the yoga doesn’t end when awareness begins. The truth is that sometimes the very things you become aware of shake your foundation to the core. The body’s natural response in these times of stress or overwhelm is to contract. If someone punches you, you don’t walk toward them with the your front side unprotected, right? You guard the core of yourself and you retreat. The feeling of being shaken and overwhelmed can lead to times of intense internal contraction. During these times in particular, our yoga practice continues as we learn to stay soft and open during the very times when our instincts scream ‘contract!’. Any woman who has given birth can tell you that staying receptive and aware during a contraction is extremely challenging, yet entirely possible.
On the yoga mat we use all of our powers: mental focus, heart’s intention and physical intelligence to feel into our body and find space and fullness within the most contracted positions. We learn to become more comfortable with what is uncomfortable. We learn to hold steady, to work with finesse and elegance rather than force, realising all along that there is a sweet spot in that flow of energy where we can stay soft and open in the tightest spots, resting in the knowledge that the intensity of the moment will pass.
On the mat and in our lives we can choose moment by moment to stay tender, aware, and connected, even when we’ve been shaken and it hurts. It’s through this practice that we can alchemise whatever moment we’re in and gain the courage to move from what is to what comes next, shaken, but not stirred.