Two-and-a-half minutes into Pigeon Pose, head down, eyes closed, I began to seriously rethink the choices of my life, beginning of course with this one.
“You’re almost there…” encouraged my boyfriend, who was keeping time.
I wanna scream and shout and LET IT ALL OUT, sang Britney and will.i.am in my head; followed by You can do this, you’ve been in much more uncomfortable situations than this; and Is he even watching the time? How can I know that he’s watching the time?!
Then this, which is the reason I do yoga in the first place: Just quit.
You’ve no doubt been there. That voice is oh-so-alluring especially when your body oh-so-aches. And let’s be honest, how many times have you been able to resist?
This doesn’t happen solely during “challenging” yoga poses; even in Savasana, the mind must coach the body to be still.
During this particular Pigeon Pose, a moment of clarity arrived right after I wanted to quit and right before I did: This is self-inflicted, I thought. I have total control. I’m doing it and I can undo it, but not until after I’m really done.
It’s all perspective. Pigeon Pose is perhaps three minutes (often much less) of self-inflicted ache. How about the unfulfilling jobs we’ve slaved away at for how many years? Or the dead-end relationships we keep around? What about the self-defeating thoughts we promise ourselves to leave behind with the New Year, only to find they’re alive and well in February?
Three minutes. “You’re done,” ushered in my relief.
I too-eagerly walked my hands back to my hips and swung my left leg around and back into Downward Facing Dog. The ache, instantly gone.
The inner change? A work in progress.
Hello, stubborn mind
Telling yourself you need to change is as useless as trying to think your way through chugging 16 ounces of green smoothie that has the consistency of pond water in your mouth (great visual, right?) just because “it’s good for you.”
Not. Gonna. Happen.
To change, you can’t just think about it. You can’t just arrive on your mat, go through the motions and expect lasting changes in your body. You’ve got to drink the pond water green smoothie every day before the glow arrives in your face.
For a girl whose first words were “I don’t wanna,” I think you can guess how that last one is turning out.
To change, you have to overcome your ego’s stubbornness and be willing to just this once breathe outside of your comfort zone. Then, capitalize on your mental momentum and do what you’ve been dreading—or putting off.
All it takes is one positive deviation from the norm to persuade your mind that change is good.
4 mind-changing tricks
When considering your life’s next big (or small) change, keep one of my new favorite quotes in mind:
“Self-improvement is about paying attention to life itself.” —Richard Rohr in Falling Upward (tweet it)
Chart your path to paying attention with four suggestions that can change your yoga practice as well as your life off the mat.
1. Focus on loving the results.
Replace “I don’t feel like __(e.g. practicing handstand)__” with “I’m going to love how I feel after __(I nail a handstand)__.”
2. Thrill yourself with something you’ve never done before.
Get excited about trying something new, like a forearm balance (or moving to a new state, both of which often have equal amounts of fear involved). When I teach advanced poses, I get a kick out of asking my yoga students if they’ve ever found their bodies in such a position before. When they realize it’s brand new to their bodies, suddenly the pressure of performing is released.
3. “It’s not Opposites Day!”
Remember pulling an “Opposites Day” card on someone while you were growing up? Whenever you try to talk yourself out of a 10-minute meditation, you know what to do. It’s just silly enough to work.
4. Hold yourself accountable in order to move on.
Here’s a zinger: Open a doc on your computer or grab old fashioned pen and paper and write this at the top: “I take full accountability for…” Below that line, list all the lackluster things you wish you could change about your current situation. When you’re finished, seal it with this: “I give myself permission to try a new way of doing things.”
Try it: Half Happy Baby, Ardha Ananda Balasana
While in Pigeon Pose, it’s easy to let the attention-grabbing aches in our hips create even more tension in the body. Lessen those aches by prepping for the full posture with Half Happy Baby.
This asana helps bring imbalanced hips back into alignment by separately stretching the legs. It’s common for one side to be different than the other; also, for little dogs to play peek-a-boo with your limbs.
- Can’t quite grasp the foot? Loop a belt or strap around the foot’s arch.
- If your head and shoulders don’t easily rest on the ground as you grasp your foot, bend the straight leg and plant the foot flat behind your glutes. Gradually work toward a lengthened leg by scooting the heel away from you.
- Lie down with legs extended on the mat. On an exhale, bring the left knee up toward your left side body and gently squeeze it with both arms. Flex the right foot’s toes towards your face to keep the leg active.
- From the outer edge of the left foot, grasp the arch of the foot with the left hand, aligning your left elbow on the inside of the left knee. Rest your right arm beside you or press down on top of the right thigh to help keep both hip points level and grounded.
- Inhale the left foot high while moving the knee slightly outside of your left side body and up toward your armpit. Relax the neck, your shoulders and your hips, feeling the full length of your spine on the mat.
- Take six to eight slow, deep breaths, consciously releasing any muscle tension that arises in the hip or groin on your exhales.
- To come out, release your grip on the foot and hug the knee back into your body. Extend the left leg long to match the right. Repeat on the other side.
What do you do to motivate yourself toward positive change? Share your wisdom below.