What is the hardest part of yoga practice? Is it the asana or the breath? Is it the discipline to step on your mat every day? Is it your willingness to try something new? It may be any combination of these things, or it may be one thing. In my experience it is the simple act of letting go.
Let us not get confused here. By letting go, I don’t mean surrendering or giving up, but rather letting go of the stories we tell ourselves that we can’t do something, the expectations and judgments we experience as we move through our practice, and our egos that push us too hard. So often these judgments and harsh criticisms hold us back, keeping us from our true potential, hiding us from the brilliance within.
One of my yoga teachers says “the strongest yogi in the room is the one that takes child’s pose when they need it.” How true. How many times have you pushed yourself too hard in class only to be left feeling worse than when you walked in or maybe even pushing to injury? Have you been practicing for awhile with little change and feel frustrated? Yes, you show up every day, but you are still as stiff and tense as when you began. You can power through any Vinyasa, but your stress and anxiety levels are through the roof. Kudos to you for coming to class, but have you considered that it’s not the asana you need to master, but the act of listening and letting go instead.
Where to start? First, know that this is a process and as such it can take a long time to learn. In other words, get your Patience hat ready. Next, when the little voice inside tells you to do more, do less and see what happens. By doing so you learn to question whether your ego is pushing you forward for all of the guts and glory or if you’re really ready to go deeper.
Sometimes that little voice inside isn’t so nice about what is happening on your mat and depending on your life experiences, it can be downright disheartening. In this instance, turn it around by just being kind to yourself and take a break. Hard stuff, I know, but give it a try. The world will not come to an end because you did one less Chaturanga. In fact, you may even find yourself more peaceful when you do stop and listen. This is a huge step in learning to let go. Quieting the stories for even the smallest of moments can allow you to open up in so many ways. Take this experience off of your mat and see how letting go of all the expectations and judgments can help you be more free.