Yoga has always been about overcoming.
At first glance, yoga asana masquerades as overcoming the stuckness and limitations in your body that prevent freedom of movement. With regular practice, the body yields and bends and takes on new shapes.
In turn, the mind is relearning what to make of the body. Wait, legs can now do what? Head can be below heart and still, everything is in order? This inner dialogue happens without you noticing until someone close to you says, “You seem different lately.”
The moment you awaken to the changes already taking place in your body + mind is when the changes enter your heart. That same heart, once intent on living within boundaries, breathes a new reality. It is one of endless possibility and brightness. Freedom.
It is a reality in which you are no longer victim to your genes, your circumstances or your addictions.
It is the reality of an overcomer.
What is freedom to you?
“Freedom” was the word and intention I chose to focus on most in 2014, though it’s been with me as a treasured value for as long as I can remember.
I used to think that freedom was waking up and deciding what I wanted to do with my 24 hours, instead of feeling like someone else was deciding for me. A large part of my freedom definition meant eventually being able to work for myself.
In my You Again Yoga 30-day guide, Day 12 is the “Manifest freedom” meditation. In it, I define freedom in yoga as samadhi. This is the ultimate Divine realization on Patanjali’s Eightfold Path of Yoga, wherein we experience freedom from our moods, desires and runaround thoughts. You’ve likely had glimpses or perhaps even lasting experiences of this bliss.
A frustrating part about experiencing bliss is coming back to the non-experience of it. The paying of bills. The conflict in relationships. The everyday negative self-talk stuckness that limits what you perceive as possible for yourself.
We focus on accomplishments and goals, seeing these eventual successes as precursors to happiness and freedom. Rarely, however, do these successes make us feel free; they just bring with them a whole new set of goals.
Here’s what I’ve come to realize about freedom, thanks to my friend, yogi and writer Brett Henley of We Craft Stories. He writes:
“The freedom I hustle to earn is not really about accomplishment as much as it is about creating more space to be filled with what is most important to me.”
Yoga is about creating space — in our bodies and minds — for a higher purpose. It is a peeling away and bowing down to and hovering near our truth so that what remains is important and useful.
This is how you manifest freedom: Intentionally spend time on creating space by removing the things that matter less than the things that do.
It’s not difficult to figure out the things that don’t matter to you. Whatever gives you an “ugh” reaction is a good place to start. (Unfortunately, this doesn’t apply to things like paying taxes.)
Your freedom is found in spaciousness and permission to let go of and let in more of the things that matter.
The more you resist who you are, the less you’ll be free. Fortunately, the more time you spend on your yoga mat and meditation cushion, the less you’ll resist who you are.
Try it: Ostrich Pose
While the Ostrich doesn’t really bury its head in the sand, sometimes it feels like we want to when life constricts us. It’s time to take back your strong foundation of freedom and surrender to resistance (moving through it, instead) by practicing Ostrich Pose, a posture I learned in the Forrest Yoga lineage.
- Step into Warrior II pose, left leg forward. Intersect the left heel with the middle of the back foot, planted parallel to the back edge of your mat. Bring your hands to your hips and set up your strong foundation: lunging left knee, strength into the outer edge of the right foot.
- Clasp your hands behind your back, working your wrists toward one another. On an exhale, lead with your chest and bend forward, keeping both legs engaged and planted. Ensure your left knee remains moving toward the pinky toe to open the hip.
- Loosen your head and neck as you reach up through clasped hands. Breathe smoothly for three to five deep breaths. Rise on an inhale, using your low belly and arms to lift back to center.
- Turn your left toes in and right toes out to practice the posture on the other side.