There is energy all around us: the energy of the sun, the energy it takes to move an object, wasted energy on unrequited love, energy of thoughts (i.e. scattered, constricted, and mental blocks). Yoga is a process to allow for a free flow of energy to move through you. According to Erich Schiffmann, “your body’s ability to function as a clean efficient channel is limited by stiffness, lack of strength, and lack of endurance” (65). As we remove blocks, limit discomfort, heal wounds, release tension, energy flows more freely, we are more at ease and comfortable in our bodies and in our life.
Many of us are ambitious, have dreams and drive. Yet, we learn time again that we cannot force anything to happen. Everything — our relationships, our careers, hobbies, talents, and dreams — take time to grow, develop and mature. I have a quote on my fridge by the Greek sage Epictetus that says “No great thing is created suddenly. There must be time. Give your best and always be kind.” Epictetus believed that we cannot control our external environment, we can only control our actions. For him, happiness was living in accordance to nature, “which means (a) pursuing a course through life intelligently responding to one’s own needs and duties as a sociable human being, but also (b) wholly accepting one’s fate and the fate of the world as coming directly from the divine intelligence which makes the world the best that is possible” (Seddon). We suffer when we try to control what is out of our control and ignore what is within our power to change.
In yoga, as in life, we often force ourselves to go further than comfortable or place our value in terms of what we can accomplish. Our mat is a microcosm of our behavior in the world. What happens on our mat, how we drift, daydream, force, embrace, and breakdown, is how we also react to situations off the mat. Yogi Joel Kramer summed it up when he said “The quality of mind that you bring to yoga is of the utmost importance.” Yoga is not about working to accomplish something, yoga is about being present, to remove the blocks that prevent us from understanding our true nature. Kramer mentions that when we force ourselves into postures, when we move to accomplish something, yoga becomes a series of repetitious exercises with a goal rather that a process of profound transformation.
Instead of forcing yourself into a posture, tune into the subtle energy currents that are moving through your body. In yoga, when we turn into ourselves, become aware of ourselves, we find that our bodies continuously give us feedback. You can notice where you are tight, in pain, open, and parts or sides you are favoring. More importantly, you can tune into the parts of your body and poses you can control. There are energy lines moving through your body. The energy lines start at your core and move into your limbs. Our center is our pelvis and the “most important line of energy, always, is your spine” (Schiffmann, 67). Each yoga pose consists of at least two energy lines and you must learn to focus on your internal sensations to move energy into parts of your body.
When working with energy lines, work to channel your energy within your limits. There is no forcing or pushing because this will only create more tension. Think about if you were to push against a closed door, all your muscles are engaged you tighten up and the door still won’t budge. You run the risk of injuring yourself rather than opening the door. Become as relaxed as possible and feel your body sink deeper. As muscle tension releases, your body will go deeper into the pose naturally. This surrender to what you can control can be applied into everything in your life. Follow your breath within and notice your own energy currents. Extend them, relax them, and watch yourself grow at your rhythm. Knowing when to rest, when to expand, and where your limits lie, you will find that most everything will come at a greater ease and your life will be full of more joy.
“Epictetus,” by Keith H. Seddon. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. n.d. Web. January 21, 2013.
Kramer, Joel. Yoga as Self Transformation. Yoga Journal May/June 1980. Web.
Schiffmann, Erich. Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness. New York: Pocket Books, 1996. Print.