There is a moment in a yoga practice where the mind shifts from everything outside of the mat to solely what is happening on the mat- the asana, the breath, alignment, sensations in the body. In that shift, there is a deeper sense of connection to the self and that has a calming effect.
But what happens after class when you jump back into all the roles you play with all their expectations? Can you maintain that calmness and connection? What happens when it feels like nothing is working and you’re facing problem after problem like nothing you can do is right? Can you even remember that connection and calmness?
Yoga Sutra 2.33 suggests that when things aren’t working, cultivate an opposite and elevated attitude. Sounds pretty easy if you’re off in a cave meditating, right? But how do you apply that in the modern world?
Cultivating an opposite and elevated attitude doesn’t mean to just pretend everything is fine and be happy. We feed what we focus on. If we’re playing the victim card, focusing on everything that’s not working, we feed the energy of “not working.” However, if we focus on what is working, we feed the focus on what is working.
Additionally, we are called into self-study. What is your part in the situation that is not working? Sometimes you truly won’t hold responsibility, but often enough you will. When you are willing to look at your actions (or inactions) that have contributed to the current situation, you can see where your energy needs to be redirected. You can make better choices.
Living in a rural area, we have poor internet service. Working from home, I am often affected by poor internet connections. It’s why we have a landline, so we can all customer service or I can host calls with clients. When the landline and internet went out (and the cell phone runs off a micro tower using the internet), I felt frustrated and discouraged. I felt myself moving into that victim space of poor me, why is this happening, I don’t have time for this, it’s costing me time and money.
As I started to look at my part in it, I could see that I could be doing more to fight for reliable internet, I could find a better location to work from, and I could use the disconnection time to focus on other things I allowed myself to avoid through distractions such as social media. I also saw that when I vocalized my frustration, I received sympathy which felt good. Perhaps on an unconscious level I was using the situation to meet a deeper need of human connection.
I had to tap into my yoga and make a shift.
I began to breathe deeper and slower. I pictured doing Warrior (Virabadrasana) I and continued to breathe slowly and deeply. I moved in my mind to a handful of poses and tried to imagine them so strongly that I actually felt like I as doing them. Even my mind began to follow suit, providing alignments for a deeper, richer practice. Within a few minutes, I felt calmer. That was the key.
I absolutely had to shift out of the “lizard brain” focusing on survival and security and back into the rational brain before I could start focusing on all that was working. I realized I had distraction free writing time, I could go into my garden and do some necessary weeding, I could work offline on some projects I was procrastinating on, or I could just take a nap and rest my body for awhile.
As I redirected my energy, I cultivated an elevated attitude. I relaxed and the flow of energy returned. There are things we can change and things we cannot. I knew I would be okay even if the internet wasn’t.
Where are you struggling? Take a moment to just breathe, slowly and consciously inhaling and exhaling. Remember your yoga practice and how it feels. Stay with that sensation as you follow the breath for a few minutes. Then, make a conscious choice for how you want to move forward- with anger, frustration, anxiety or joyfully, peacefully, with ease? Once you decide, continue to start with the calmness and the breath and decide what is the one inspired action step you can take immediately. It doesn’t have to be huge. It could be as simple as smile or go for a walk, call a friend or make a cup of tea and mindfully drink it.
Allow yourself to cultivate an opposite and elevated attitude. Practice gratitude for what is working. Allow yourself to shift without having to fake it.