Take your mind to the sensations of being startled: sharp intake of air, tensing of muscles, heart rate increases. Now take yourself to the state that follows when you realise there is no danger. Fully experience this release: exhale with audible sigh, muscles relax, heart rate slows. Now imagine you are landed with a cumbersome task and short deadline. You face competing demands, long hours, cancellations and reschedules. In all likelihood, a stress response has been activated. When this is repeatedly triggered by situations that occur routinely, we can get trapped in this stress state, never knowing when it is safe to let our guard down. Our body, breath, and mind forget how to let go: we habituate to this heightened state of tension, as though continually bracing against rough seas.
There will be challenges in our yoga class and tension can creep in, much like in life. Observe how you respond to it. Notice when more effort becomes counter-productive, as though swimming against the tide. And then stop fighting it. Feel tension diminish with each exhale or maybe a change in approach. Learn to move with the current and embrace available resources- breath, attitude, knowledge, curiosity. Be an explorer and make discoveries. Cultivate a sense of ease as you apply focused effort. Move toward freedom with purpose. Enjoy it!
Ruth teaches yoga in Cheltenham UK, weaving yoga philosophy into the asana practice to help students connect yoga on the mat to their lives off the mat.