Unfortunately, the magic happens when it sucks. This is why the yogis and Patanjali told us to practice consistently. They knew that we needed to come face to face with the suckiness and often. I am not talking about pain from injuries. I am talking about the suckiness of being uncomfortable. The suckiness of wanting to be anywhere but on that mat. When it sucks, the biggest opportunity for transformation occurs. History shows us this. When we hear stories of huge internal life shattering transformations, it is usually prefaced by a heart wrenching story that sucks.
For something to transform, it need to hit its “boiling point”. The boiling point is where the pressure to remain the same is equal to the pressure to change. It is impossible to stay at that point. The pain of it is too much. Like water at its boiling point, you either have to transform into vapor, something lighter and more unified with the air around you , or you step away from the heat and return back to being plain water.
Our practice is there to take us to the boiling point. The point of transformation into vapor and than gas. The air we breathe is made up of gases. The air we breathe cannot be seen with the naked eye but its power cannot be denied. We cannot live without it but it is one with everything and even without being seen maintains its strong impact on the world.
Our practice is asking us to be like air. Powerful but not forceful. Important on its own but unified. Light enough to move through the world gently but still being impactful.
Yet, there is fear in being that light. Indeed water is powerful in its current state. Why not steer clear of the boiling point and still be great? Because the fact that the pressure is there means that it is time to be ligther. It is time to let go of the bondage of conditioned thought, samsara hala hala, and experience the world with a lightness that comes only from being non attached.
“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”
The pain is not coming from the practice. The pain is coming from the attachment to the practice. The pressure and the pain is the bonds of the attachment. Like when someone is bound by rope and they fight against it until the skin is chaffed and bloody. This is the internal struggle of attachment. The bonds are psychological but still just as painful. When we come up against this, we have two choices. We can surrender to the process of transformation or we can go back to being the same. We often feel that going back to our same life brings us happiness. I will give you a hint. The fact that this is arising within you shows that change needs to happen. If something is not bothering you, emotions won’t arise within you. Emotions, like the turn signal on a car, are directional indicators. That is why we have them.
Times When You Hit the Boiling Point in The Practice
- When you are standing on your mat taking extra breathes because the thought of the next pose that is coming and the attachment to how it is supposed to look are not the same
- When you avoid getting on your mat because the pressure of the practice looking a certain way clashes with what it actually looks like
- When you are pressed for time and the thought of how much time you should spend practicing clashes with how much time you actually have
- When you want the next pose but your teacher is not giving it to you
- When you don’t want the next pose but your teacher is giving it to you
- When you have had an injury and your thoughts of your old practice are clashing with the reality of this new one
- When you have convinced yourself that the practice is not for you because the picture in your head does not match what your body is doing
- When you are debating switching styles of yoga because the pain of being on the mat in the Ashtanga class is just too great
- When you are sore and the thought of what your practice is going to look and feel like clashes with the story of what you think it should look like
- When your thoughts of what people are going to think about you are clashing with what you want people to feel about you
- When the way you feel right now is not in line with how you wanted to feel when you got on the mat
- When your teacher/pose is taking you deeper than you thought was possible and you don’t want to feel the intensity
The magic happens when your practice sucks. For the transformation to continue, surrender to the discomfort must happen. Then comes grace. It is indescribable but when you feel it, you know. It is a feeling of openness and receptivity bordering on bliss. It is usually followed by the realization that you actually made it through the thing you felt would crush you and that it was not as bad as your mind made it out to be. You realize that who you are is so much stronger than you ever knew. You know that if you could make it trough that moment, your strength is beyond even your comprehension because life is going to continuously bring you those moments. These moments is what the practice is about. Don’t run from them. Invite them in.
When you realize that every stressful moment you experience is a gift that points you to your freedom, life becomes very kind-Byron Katie
Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail email@example.com.