Sandwiched among waking, sleeping and reading this dharma are a whole lot of choices. You decided what to wear, what to eat, who to talk to, where to spend your time. At some point today, maybe you questioned or felt guilty about those choices.
Maybe, you got so overwhelmed with possibility that the choice you made was to not make a choice.
There is no “right” and “wrong” when it comes to choices, but you can make choices that certainly feel wrong for you. There are times when you have to say “no” because one more “yes” will exceed your capacity. Times when you breathe through another vinyasa because you’d rather meet your edge than take Child’s Pose prematurely.
And of course, there are moments when the choice is made for you: getting laid off or fired; having someone or something taken away from you unexpectedly.
Yoga, more than any other practice I’ve tried, alerts you to the fact that even in the unchoicest of situations, you still have a choice.
The yoga of choice
“If you act like a victim, you are likely to be treated as one.” -Paulo Coelho
We are creatures of wanting to be somewhere else — especially when the place we’re at is messy, inconvenient or tender. You’ll find this every time you come to the mat and ease into a stretch that makes you wish you were anywhere other than in the present.
There will always be a choice to stay the course or change direction. Your job is not to ace Making Choices 101, but to stay enrolled.
When you view your yoga practice as a series of choices, suddenly all possibilities open up. You no longer feel confined or obligated to the poses. Instead, you can tune into what’s best for you in the moment. This includes permission to do something different from what a teacher is suggesting for you.
The more you practice this on the mat, the more it will become your off-the-mat reality.
Simply put, yoga teaches you how to make the choices that are right for you.
2 questions for right-for-you choices
The trouble is, you might not know what’s truly best for you in any given moment. On the mat and off, I’m finding that the best way to guide choices is to get into the emotions stirring beneath the outcomes.
So the next time you need to make a choice (big or small), ask yourself:
- What does it feel like?
- Do I like how that feels?
As a recent example, I practiced at Yoga Rocks the Park Denver this summer, and before lifting into Wheel Pose under the hot, hot, sun, I ran through my inner dialogue, Should I practice Wheel today? as I often do before attempting a pose that I’m skeptical about.
- What does it feel like? In my body right now I feel light, open and willing. I can handle this.
- Do I like how that feels? Heck yes! Primo conditions for attempting this pose. I’m going to do it!
It’s simple, effective and it reminds you that there is no pre-paved “right” path for you to take. There is only Your path, on which you decide how you get to feel and, more important, if you feel okay with that.
Try it: Revolved Crescent Lunge, Parivrtta Anjaneyasana
Too often we focus on the large, scary choices in our life, and don’t spend enough time on the simple, everyday foundations that can make those bigger choices less daunting. This twist reminds me that if you’re not sure and solid when given the opportunity to be stable, you’ll be much less likely to make good choices later.
- From a Standing Forward Bend at the top of your mat, step your right leg back into a lunge, fingertips on the ground. Stack your left knee on top of the left ankle, and right heel on top of the right toes.
- Plant your right palm underneath your shoulder, in line with your left heel. Turn the fingertips toward the top right corner of the mat. Bring the left thumb to the inside of the left hip and remind yourself to nudge the left hip back as your right hip comes forward to square.
- Press down into the big toe mounds of both feet and hug up through the inner thighs so that you could lift your planted right palm and stay stable. However, keep it on the mat and inhale your left arm high as you twist toward the left thigh.
- Lean the head slightly back and elongate through the crown of the head, collarbones wide and shoulder blades arriving to cradle the back of the heart. Lift energetically through your left fingertips, palm facing forward.
- Stay for five deep breaths, twisting from your spine and keeping the sacrum and hips level. Exhale the left hand down and step the right leg forward to fold. When you’re ready, practice the other side by stepping the left leg back.