Spending time on your yoga mat may be an ideal way to stretch your tight muscles, strengthen your body, and relax your mind. But there is so much more to gain from your practice, especially if you begin to consciously bring what you do on your mat to the rest of your life.
I want to invite you to explore a practice that I’ve been working with over the last several weeks. I call it “getting comfortable with the uncomfortable”.
Most experiences we have (both on our yoga mat and off) are pleasurable or not. What feels good to us we accept and often times, seek out and attempt to hold on to for as long as possible. When something doesn’t feel good to us we push it away, ignore or attempt to avoid it, or try to eliminate it as soon as possible. Sometimes this act of resisting takes the form of judgment.
For example, in yoga class your teacher may guide you into a posture that you find extremely challenging. As you approach the pose you are filled with anger at the teacher for “pushing everyone too hard” or for making yoga into “a game of who’s strongest”. The truth is however, the teacher is simply instructing the class through a variety of postures. You most likely find the pose difficult and possibly feel less-than your fellow yogis for not being able to perform it as well as them. The story that you are telling yourself (in the form of judgment) is how you avoid taking responsibility for your own “bad” feelings.
Not everyone resorts to judgment all of the time. We can deal with non-pleasure inducing postures by taking a water break or going to the bathroom. Another commonly employed distraction is picking the lint off your yoga mat or staying in the pose, but completely collapsing and checking out.
Funny thing is, as soon as the “bad” pose ends and a pose we have deemed “good” is executed we’re happy again, life is great, and our teacher is once again our favorite.
The same thing occurs in life. Things are going our way and we feel great! Something “bad” happens and we feel awful. Some people may have very little awareness of the “bad” times because at the first hint of pain they run so fast they don’t even realize what propelled them to do so. While they may avoid being uncomfortable in the moment, they may also miss out on a lot of meaningful life experiences. Others linger in the “bad” feelings for way to long because they think that’s their only option. In this case, the person may appear to be very skilled at “getting comfortable with the uncomfortable”, but that’s not really what’s occurring. When one truly gets comfortable with the uncomfortable a state of contentment, or santosha, arises. Usually, in this moment, “bad” feelings dissipate and faith in the divine plan dominates. The situation may still be the same, but your state of being in relationship to it has changed.
Next time you step onto your mat experiment with “Getting Comfortable with the Uncomfortable” using these suggestions. Apply them in your day-to-day life as well and notice how Santosha/contentment increases.
- First of all, make a commitment to realize your emotional self.
Everyone is meant to experience a range of emotions which you can essentially plug into two categories: “good” and “bad”. All emotions are valuable resources that we’ve been given. They inform us about what we like, dislike, and basically, what we believe.
You may feel like you are ruled by your emotions. Or, maybe you feel disconnected to your feelings and more “up in your head”. Regardless of your tendencies, being able to realize this aspect of yourself that is emotional can be liberating. Stepping back to recognize how you are feeling can help you release any identification you may have with your emotional state affording you greater objectivity about the moment. Additionally, if you don’t feel easily, choosing to realize this part of yourself is all it takes to wake up your emotional body.
Make it a daily practice to check-in with yourself about how you are feeling
- in the morning when you awake
- at night when you retire
- anytime you feel triggered in a negative way
Take a few breaths and receive the information your emotional body is offering you.
On your yoga mat, engage in a similar practice. Acknowledge your emotional state of being at the beginning of practice, somewhere in the middle, and at the end of your practice. If a pose has brought buried emotions to the surface or something the teacher says triggers you, check in then as well.
When you are experiencing an emotion, embrace it. I have found it especially useful to say to myself, “I’m really angry right now, and that’s ok”. Depending on the intensity of my emotion I may need to add, "no one's going to die", or something along those lines.
No emotion is inherently good or bad. In essence they are simply energies moving through us informing us about our perceived reality.
- Get Comfortable with the Uncomfortable
This step occurs simultaneously with step #2. After you have acknowledged what you are feeling (step 1) and have admitted to yourself that that is ok, any “bad” feelings lose their power. Suddenly you have become comfortable with what was making you uncomfortable. You have discovered Santosha or Contentment. And with this comes a sense of great freedom.
When I feel contentment I know deep in my being that everything is going to be ok. I realize that I’m not going to die, life will continue to go on, and I also remember that it will only be a matter of time before change occurs and this “moment” will then be a past memory stored away in my mind.
Have fun exploring! Let me know if you have any questions and please share any comments!