Sameness is comforting.
We find comfort in making the same choices each day, like eating nut butter and oatmeal for breakfast or wearing the same outfit despite a closet full of clothes. I mean, have you seen my yoga photos?
And there’s merit to routine — to knowing where your head will hit the pillow and who might be next to it. Even travelers yearn for roots after a while.
Here’s what a lot of us don’t realize about sameness: It’s a choice.
Sometimes we stay in jobs or relationships longer than we feel like we should. Or months go by where we promised ourselves we’d begin to meditate. (Am I right? This will help you kick-start the practice.)
The sameness that gives stability can also keep opportunities for expansion at bay.
This is where yoga comes in. As an example, think of Sun Salutations. After you run through A or B a few times, you know the sequence and what to expect or yourself in it. Within those parameters, it’s easy to become comforted. At the same time, it’s all-too-easy to become confined.
This is the very nature of any yoga practice: confine the body in a shape to learn how to expand beyond your limits.
The difference between being the same old you on the mat versus one who overcomes those limits depends upon your willingness to have things to stay the same.
Outside your comfort zone
Yesterday, I practiced 5 hours of Forrest Yoga taught by the founder, Ana Forrest. Since attending the Windhorse Conference two years ago and interviewing Ana, I can honestly say that her classes are the most challenging I have ever taken.
The sequencing and choice of postures (many specific to Forrest Yoga) fatigues my muscles in ways that vinyasa classes don’t. Think arm balances, ab work and dolphins held until your arms and legs give in.
So, there I am next to fellow yogini Emily Cordes, and we’re buzzing into our chakras and twisting deeply through our spines, and I start to wander. Mentally, my mind is seeking refuge from the effort and jumping right to the yield because Savasana is easy and familiar and I’m an expert in lying on the ground.
But the thing is, if you don’t make all the crazy effort, you won’t get to the sweetest yield.
Change your breath
“In order to change the aliveness inside you, change your breath.” – Ana Forrest
When your mind is repeating its defeatist script on the yoga mat it’s often not enough to just “come back to the breath.” That works for one or two rounds before your mind is off and running within your inner wilderness.
You’ve got to get specific and you’ve got to change your breath. Notice the air flow on the upper lip. Focus on the diaphragm expanding and contracting. Settle into the sweet rise and fall of the collarbones. Pick a spot — make a choice — and let that be your battle ground for expansion.
If loud ujjayi breathing is your thing, experiment with soft. This type of pranayama can also become a sameness. Always treat your breath like a runway with plenty of room for takeoff and landing. Connect with your airspace and those internal winds will sweep away the sameness that keeps you stuck.
When you show up in your skin and in your breath, discomfort fades. You choose a new norm, one that becomes more comfortable over time. The everyday choice to be specifically present leads to new braveries of being.
It’s uncomfortable to ask your mind to do something different. What you have to ask yourself is: Are you comfortable with things staying the same?
Try it: Forearm Balance, Pincha Mayurasana
Balancing on your forearms certainly changes things up — especially when your legs are way up overhead. I find this posture easier to lift into, but more difficult to maintain when away from the wall, so I invite you to use the wall for balance, too.
This pose is especially honest when it comes to your breath. Do you hold your breath when you kick up? Can you breathe slowly despite the fear? Find your breath and you’ll find your pose.
- Bring your mat to an open wall space. Come to hands and knees facing the wall. Place your elbows directly beneath your shoulders. Grasp opposite arms just above the elbows to determine the right width, then place your palms face down so forearms are parallel.
- Take your gaze between your arms. Root strongly into the palms and press down through the forearms as you spread your shoulder blades onto the back. Feel a lifting in your armpits and a solidness in the core.
- Inhale, curl your toes under and lift the hips high, straightening the legs. Walk your feet in toward your face, maintaining your shoulders above the elbows. Again, press down into the arms to lift the shoulders up.
- Keep the neck relaxed as you raise your right (or left) leg to the ceiling. Extend and reach through the toes. On an inhale, push off with your other leg to send both legs up to meet the wall. It may take a few tries, so be easy on yourself and your breath.
- Once you’ve arrived, flex your feet and walk your heels up the wall. Move your tailbone up toward the heels to lengthen the low back. Keep your gaze between your arms and maintain strength into the forearms and elbows to continue to lift tall through the torso. Stay for three deep breaths (or more for advanced practitioners.)
- To come down, drop one leg softly to the mat and land with a bent knee. The other will follow. Rest in Child’s Pose.