The world is full of metaphors, but this past New Year’s Eve celebration may have provided the metaphor to end all metaphors.
On NYE, my toilet clogged. No matter how much we (i.e. my dad) snaked and plunged before the ball dropped in New York, those old pipes just couldn’t take it. So, alternating between music and cheering and toilet flushing, we rang in 2013.
Gratefully, plumbers work on New Year’s Day. One arrived in the morning and after five minutes (!) with a heavy-duty auger the plumbing system was like new.
Now, for the metaphor. (I promise it’s not going where you think it’s going — though, growing up with two older brothers, I can’t say I wasn’t tempted.)
It’s this: You can’t expect a superficial quick fix to get rid of a deeply rooted blockage.
Or this slightly more crass version: Use the New Year to get rid of the crap in your life. (Okay, I kind of went there.)
But back to quick fixes, because undoubtedly you’ve either tried or know someone who has tried them. We all have. Why are we surprised when they fail? Why, then, do we beat ourselves up about failing when the fix didn’t set us up for success in the first place?
So, there’s crap in your life. There’s perhaps not enough money or time to do the things you’re passionate about. There’s distance between family and loved ones. There are unhappy emotions you’d rather not feel so you bury them. You bury it all because at least then you won’t have to think about it anymore.
The trouble with burying is you only have so much bandwidth before your pipe gets clogged. And in your body, your “pipes” are likely your hips and shoulders. (Ever feel like shouting or crying in Pigeon Pose or Fire Log? Yeah, me too.)
How do you unblock all that build-up? Time to break out the
Approaching your yoga practice or your life by seeing only what you can’t do, rather than what you can, is the quickest way to stay blocked. For one, thoughts become things. For another, we become so focused on forcing through the block that we forget to use the right tool for the job.
The right tool? How you feel in the present moment.
If you feel strong, kick into Handstand. If you feel burnt out, pop up into Bridge Pose. Use your stumblings and mental hiccups as fuel for your inevitable accomplishments on and off the mat.
Allowing yourself to feel, rather than bury, is your ticket to a yoga practice that supports your life as is and never makes you feel bad for being you.
Forget the quick fix
We try to force blockages out of our life with quick fixes, which just create greater clogs. That’s when you have to go to the source. Yoga is the best slow-fix way I know of to excavate what’s keeping you blocked.
Forget the quick fixes or the illusion that to be happy and fulfilled, everything in your life must be cheerful with no obstacles. All of you is useful in creating your happy momentum for 2013. As Dr. Laura Delizonna, clinical psychologist at Stanford says,
“A major difference between happy people and their less happy counterparts is that happy people use negative emotions to help them find their way back to what’s positive and possible.”
This is your permission, if you choose the happy path, to experience the positive and the negative.
The breakthrough happens when unhappy inconveniences, such as temporarily clogged toilets, don’t seem like such a big deal.
Try it: Salabasana, Locust Pose
I chose Salabasana for this practice of rooting out blockages because of the extension and gentle tension required, with very little kinks or twists and turns in the body. It may feel like you’re barely lifting off the ground but flight comes with deep breaths that peel, one by one, your ribs and legs off the mat.
Extending and clasping your arms behind you helps to raise the chest, while actively reaching back through the toes and legs gains lift. Beware of curious little dogs that roam around yoga mats!
- Lie on your stomach with your forehead or chin on the ground and bring your legs together. Reach your arms back and interlock your fingers, clasping the palms together if comfortable. Keep your wrists straight, even if the palms don’t touch.
- On an inhale, gently press back into the palms and arms to lift your torso away from the floor. At the same time, press the pelvis down and ascend the legs by reaching up and back through active toes. Hug the inner thighs towards one another so the legs don’t stray too far apart. Firm the glutes.
- Keep your gaze down and the back of the neck long. Firm your shoulder blades together and into the back.
- As you smoothly inhale and exhale, allow your body to rock with the movement. Use the breath to lift higher on the inhales and relax unnecessary tension on the exhales.
- Stay for three to six deep breaths. Exhale and release your body down to the floor, laying your arms alongside your torso and turning the head to rest on one cheek. Listen to your heart beat and slow it down through even, deep breaths. Repeat the pose once or twice more if you like, taking care not to strain the low back.