When practicing yoga, do you ever find yourself holding a pose as intensely as possible? When you’re standing in Warrior II, for instance, do you find that everything is working? If we check, we might notice that the shoulders could soften or the hands could loosen up. We might even notice that the face is tightening and then let that go. The next time you practice be conscious of how you hold each pose. Try and be mindful of what could soften in the pose and what actually needs to be working. With this mindful awareness of the body, we let go of unnecessary tension; allowing each pose to be a peaceful balance of both work and non-work, active and passive, solar and lunar…there are many ways to categorize this idea but it all boils down to balance.
With consistent practice, we can take this mindfulness training off the mat and apply it to our everyday life. Just as we’re able to sense hidden tension in the postures and then let it go, we will become more and more aware of hidden bodily tension arising from our thought patterns, moment to moment. Many of our thought patterns lead to tension in the mind. That mental tension then leaks out of the mind and sets up shop in the body. This type of bodily tension usually produces no manifest signal, such as a pain or ache. It’s a pervasive, underlying tightness that permeates the body and accumulates over time. When the body tenses up due to harmful thought patterns (such as worry, anger, fear, craving) we will be able to let go of that tension as soon as it arises. First we step back, noticing the thought pattern. Then we notice it’s effect on the body. This practice trains us to not get so lost in the thoughts, allowing stress and tension to accumulate in the body over time.
In effect, this mindful awareness training will lead to a continuous cleansing of the body from hidden stress and tension. When we are aware of the hidden tension – mindful of how it arises from moment to moment – it doesn’t have a chance to gain a foothold in the body. The accumulated tension we hold is what gives rise to many of our aliments, sicknesses and even diseases. Training in this way, cleansing the body of hidden tension from day to day and moment to moment, we will improve our overall health and be less susceptible to illness.
So, the next time you’re on the mat notice in each pose what could soften. What could be let go of? What really needs to work and what could relax? Take this peaceful awareness off the mat and make it a moment to moment practice.
by Craig Metcalf~ friend and teacher