Change is the act of becoming different, a natural occurrence that makes life possible. So why does it cause so much stress? Change comes into our awareness at the end of comfort. When life is good, there is no need to change. Only when things are uneasy do we begin to shift. Even the act of denying, resisting, or escaping from the discomfort is a form of change – but the kind that leads to unbearable circumstances. If we are interested in a transition that leads to harmony and liberation, that’s when our Yoga practice comes in. Yoga has provided me the tools to anticipate the uncertainty of change and gracefully accept it by teaching me how to have a relationship with my inner self. Because the body does not decipher between actual and perceived threat, we can tap into our stress induced reactive patterns within the safety of our Yoga mat.
During a Hatha practice, we center our movements and poses around our breath. When a pose challenges us, we check in with our breath to see how it has changed and work to steady the breath. With a steady breath, we can make choices on how to proceed: do we ease back from the challenge and practice self-care, do we hold the pose and observe in stillness, or do we challenge our limits by pushing our boundaries? Depending on the person, any of those choices can push us out of our comfort zone. As the difficulty persists, we can observe what thoughts or emotions arise in response. For the achiever like myself, choosing self-care was a difficult choice even when my body needed the rest. What I discovered when choosing the more challenging option was the thoughts and emotions that surfaced were similar to when I was dealing with conflict in my life and relationships. From self-criticism to blaming others, these reactive patterns were there to protect me, but they did not serve me.
The physical engagements in Yoga are simply the entry point to the inner world. For instance, being honest with how my body moves and how it cannot has given me the courage to be truthful with myself. Yoga practice has inspired my ability to stay present and not fall into my reactive patterns. I have found that when we shift a small part of our life, everything else shifts with it. It may cause an unraveling in our relationship, an inquiry of our path in life, or a realization of who we truly are. This is how Yoga can help us gracefully accept change. It builds the muscle around centeredness in times of confusion and conflict. When we implement the teachings of Yoga, the transformation is accompanied by the grace of ancient knowledge.
Clarity achieved through stillness, steadiness in breath, and honesty in movement has allowed me to be in uncertainty without triggering the stress response or at least has kept me from succumbing to my reactive patterns that keep me stuck in a loop. When we begin to shift our awareness to the inner self, we start to discover the filters and the conditioned behavior that keep us from being our authentic self. I have many times left a Yoga class in near tears as I had uncovered an old emotional wound that had not healed. It gave me the opportunity to look at it and properly heal and release the hurt. Often times the internal change that occurs is simply releasing something from the past that was held by the body.
In a Yoga practice, we can be aware of our predictable reactive patterns and choose a different path. Having a relationship with my breath and my choices has given me the fortitude to face adversity that change often brings.
About the Author:
Mia Velez is a certified Integral Yoga teacher. She is a disciple of the Moy Yat Ving Tsun Kung Fu lineage and is highly influenced by her martial arts training. After completing her first 200-hour teacher training in 2008, she began to see an undeniable parallel between Yoga and Kung Fu. When she began teaching Kung Fu in 2014, she incorporated Yoga insight and principles in her classes. Her goal in teaching is to connect with the students and to facilitate a safe space for exploration and self-inquiry. Yoga and Kung Fu are integrated into her daily life as a mother, a preschool teacher, and advocate for gender, race, and class equality through multiple non-profits groups.