stop your wiggling.

Lately I’ve been enamored with the dichotomy between stillness and movement.  You may remember this post where I talked about travelling horizontally vs. travelling vertically. To borrow from Pico Iyer,  travelling vertically means traveling into Stillness within. I’ve discovered that I’m fairly skilled at resisting extracurricular fidgeting in two areas of stillness: savasana and seated meditation.

But I’m nearly terrible at finding stillness inside a yoga pose. 

lisa26

This is one of my favorite poses, but I’m constantly wiggling once I’m in it. (photo cred: epagaFoto and Allyson Cheney)

It’s part career hazard: as a yoga teacher, my eagle eye is scanning the room, looking for any opportunity to help a student move more efficiently and enjoyably in and out of each pose.

And it’s part habit: I always want to find a way to make my pose look and feel ideal.

But what if ‘ideal’ for today is exactly where the pose landed in its first mental conception and physical manifestation? What if the pose doesn’t require a shifting of the hips, an extra elongating of the spine, an extra stretch of the ribs, or an extra visual scan around the room to see who’s doing the pose better than I am? It usually doesn’t.

One thing I adore about the Ashtanga asana system is that I only get 5 inhales in each pose. I sure as heck better get myself into my pose in one movement. Forget about wiping sweat, drinking water, fixing bobby pins, adjusting bra straps: there is simply no time for these shenanigans. There is only time for stillness.

Again, to quote the very wise Pico Iyer, “Stillness is not an indulgence… it’s a necessity for anyone who wants to gather less visible resources.”

Meaning: we don’t need 3 hours in meditation to find stillness. We don’t need to indulge in a three week sabbatical to make stillness a part of our lives. (Although, how cool is it to get into the mountains, set up your yoga mat on a pine needle carpet and start your day with birdsong? It’s really cool!)

IMG_6393

Travel, if you have the chance.  But also be brave enough to be still.

I’m working on finding stillness in each pose—getting into the pose and staying as still as possible. Physically, this could conceivably be a long time but mentally, this is SO difficult for me! I want to wiggle my way to perfection– shifting ever so slightly with each breath, nailing that pose and moving on to the next.

But when I do this ‘quick and conquer’ thing– what mental resources am I gathering?

Perhaps not the ones I need.

What do I need?

I need patience.

I need patience, patience, patience, and the tenacity to be imperfect. I need to gather up all my courage to get myself into an emotionally uncomfortable place and stick it out. This freedom to find stillness, to gather up the less visible inner resources feels like the ultimate prize.

My challenge for you today is to change your view of stillness from an indulgence to a necessity. 

lisa04

My challenge for you today is to change your view of stillness from an indulgence to a necessity. (photo cred: epagaFoto and Allyson Cheney)

When you are practicing yoga (or not… maybe you are just trying to make it through the day without losing your mind at work and your temper at your kiddos) can you be brave enough to stop fidgeting and fixing? Can you be brave enough to be still and gather up resources that will ultimately fill you up? These are the resources of patience, gratitude, resilience, and ease. The resources that allow you to look around the room with your eagle eye and assess your life as being blessed, even if you are momentarily uncomfortable.

If you aren’t great at doing this, perhaps try listening to one of my Guided Meditations. Give yourself time and grace; expect a natural learning curve.

In the meantime, let me know which inner resources you’ve gathered while in a moment of stillness, and how your outlook on life is beginning to shift.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

-lisa

Author’s Note: this article first appeared on MayaYoga.com in September 2016. Lisa Ash Yoga retains the rights to this article 

make no plans.

desert free

I landed at the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport with virtually no prepared plans. I had a Hertz rental reservation and one night booked at a random motel in East-Jesus Nowhere which looked a little bit close to Sedona on Google Maps. I had 36 hours of complete disregard for schedules and expectation before I was due at my Yoga Medicine Training retreat. My only ‘had-to’ was to cram-study for the anatomy portion of my training; I’d been so caught up with studying, finishing up work, and teaching yoga in the weeks leading to my departure that I practically forgot to think about how I’d spend my first two days of free time once I got to Arizona. I didn’t have any plans. My plans could change at any moment.  I had no idea how to make this work. But somehow, I made it work.

Sure, some things were not-so-ideal: my phone died 5 minutes into a 2 hour hike; I had no GPS navigation for half the day so I actually had to (shocking! I know) read a map, remember directions, and show up at a restaurant without thoroughly exploring their menu prior to choosing it.  My e-reader wouldn’t connect to the hotel’s wifi to download a new book to read so I actually had to (shocking! I know) eat an entire meal in silence, savoring each bite, with nothing to read or distract me from the sun on my face and the nourishment in my salad. The only Voltage plug-in to be found in my rental car was in the trunk, so I had to drive for hours without Pandora music and bear witness in silence to the red rolling hills and desert brush playing tag with cloud shadows. My iPhone was still dead as I snuggled between the hotel pillows that evening, so I had to go to sleep without checking InstaGram to see what I’d missed during one day away from Real Life or setting an alarm for the next morning. My non-plans were clearly more nourishing to my soul than my plan-plans would have been.  

IMG_5544[1]

this is me, before my phone died. wanted my IronMan and Russell Clive to know I was safe and covered in sunscreen.

I read once that an adventure without a mishap is just a vacation.  Does it go the other way around? Can a vacation with a mishap turn into an adventure?  

When did you most recently venture into the unknown, without a schedule or a plan or an expectation?  When did you most recently open yourself up to the possibility of an adventure stumbling into your day? When did you most recently vacate your plans and just allow the day to reveal itself?  What did you feel when you set down your schedule?  What did you see when you set aside your device?

What happened when you showed up with no expectations and no plans?  You may want to try this on the yoga mat.  

IMG_5547[1]

Personally, I have huge admiration for students who show up to my Vinyasa and Hatha Classes.  They have no idea what to expect, (other than excellent, alignment-based and anatomically-wise sequencing, of course). They aren’t sure if I’m going to decide to teach a class focused on inversions or balance or strength; if I’m going to stop the class in the middle and tell jokes (I am one of the top 5 funniest people I know, after all); or if they will leave class emotionally raw from the deep Soul questions pose during meditation.

I am always in awe at how much trust my students have in me; I feel humbled every day when they drag themselves out bed at 5:30 am or leave work 2 minutes early in the evening to make it to class on time. They have plans, no agenda, no expectations for what they will encounter. They leave their security blanket (aka SmartPhone) at the door when they step into the practice room and open themselves up to the yearnings of their soul.

What a humbling expression of trust.

Not knowing what’s next on your agenda or what’s next in your life can be terrifying, but it can also be freeing. Sure, your phone will probably die and you might get lost, but your non-plans will probably end up being more exciting, more adventurous, and more nourishing to your Soul than your plan-plans. Summer’s almost here. I dare you to plan a micro-adventure with no plans, show up on your yoga mat with no set sequence in mind and play around with movement, and do something new and terrifying every day.

Let me know how your adventure goes, and what you notice when you allow life to reveal itself you to.

Happy Trusting,

-lisa

IMG_5531[1]

sometimes, the unknown beckons