There are no “tricks” to doing yoga. There are no short cuts or fast tracks or only one way to inner peace.
There are, however, directions. There are ups and downs, lefts and rights. Right foot forward, low lunge. Lift the arms and waist. Drop your judgment; raise your chest.
As my dad, who turns 66 today, says, “Make sure you put the right things in the right places at the right time.” I call this his Stuff Placement Theory, which describes how the most successful people are the best Stuff Placers.
It’s a practical look at life that makes a lot of sense. In business, those who can hire the right people at the right time and make the right widgets for the right clients are rewarded with money. At home, if you have too much stuff in all the wrong places, getting out of the house on time becomes difficult.
In other words, we create our own difficulties or simplicities through the management of our “stuff.”
Our life’s direction is hampered or helped by the stuff with which we surround ourselves. Taking on too many obligations; stressing about family time over the holidays; letting our FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) take control of our credit cards because this (fill in the blank) will never be 50% off ever again! (Don’t you just love the holidays?)
Is it any wonder that we wish there was a “trick” that could fast track us to a life filled with all the right stuff?
Your mind’s stuff
You better believe Stuff Placement Theory also includes the Mind Stuff. Hold on to regrets and disappointments and you’re sure to amplify future misery, even when nothing about your current situation points to pain. It’s the wrong stuff in the wrong place at the wrong time.
A note here: Using “right” and “wrong” in this context doesn’t mean there’s only one way you should do things (or avoiding doing things) in order to be successful. Rather than refer to absolutes, think of these two words as intuitive guidelines. Like in a yoga pose, you know when a stretch has done too far.
It’s fairly easy to become a good stuff placer of tangible things, even if you consider yourself a messy person. All it requires is a good old-fashioned clean and purge.
In my experience, it’s much harder to be a good Mind Stuff Placer. Just imagine the Craigslist ad: “Selling a years’ worth of mental anguish; $20 or best offer – must make room TODAY in mind!”
Let in, rather than let go
If you’re unsatisfied with what thoughts occupy your mind, it’s often easier to stop letting go and instead focus on letting in. (click to tweet that!)
For two years, all my yoga practice intentions were focused on shedding: letting go of past hurts; praying that I could leave depression behind; intending for inner calm. But by focusing on the letting go, I was focusing on the very things that were keeping me sad and lifeless.
It’s like what happens when Willow starts barking at dogs she hears outside. Tell her “no” and the barking continues or gets worse. Distract her with a jar full of pennies or get her to do tricks for treats and she forgets about being a loudmouth.
Gradually, as I began to feel better through my yoga practice, I began focusing on what I wanted: more fun, more belly laughs and more days where I went to bed with a smile on my face. That was when I really came back to life.
7 ways to let in the right stuff
What can you do to let in, rather than let go, when your mind’s stuff gets overwhelming? Here’s what I do:
1. Go upside down. Handstand, Bridge, Wide-Legged Forward Bend — any safe way of getting the head below the heart can help to flip that dull energy in an instant.
2. Read this quote that I stuck on my mirror: “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” —Joseph Campbell
3. Force a smile on my face until it feels genuine.
4. Make a quick gratitude list (verbally or mentally) of all the things I’m thankful for, right down to my yappy papillon.
5. Get up, because I’m usually sitting, and walk around or change scenery. Ten minutes will do.
6. Blast my favorite song and dance with my dog. Music can change everything (especially 90s music, am I right?)
7. Remind myself that I am not my thoughts.
None of these are guarantees of instant change, but more often than not they do just that. And the more you practice the letting in, rather than the letting go, the more your invitations for inner calm will come true.
You’ll become an expert Mind Stuff Placer, heading in the right direction.
Get to it: Pyramid Pose, Parsvottanasana
Stake your claim in your new life’s direction with Pyramid Pose. This looks easy enough, right? Your hamstrings, hips, shoulders, calves and pretty much every part of you will think otherwise. But that’s what I love about Pyramid: If you successfully place all your “stuff” in alignment, you’ll feel strong, stretched and elated when you return to standing.
Arm variations: I used to strain my wrists in this pose because I wanted so badly to get my palms to touch behind my back in reverse prayer. If you’re not there yet, don’t make my mistake. Grab opposite elbows or use your hands on the ground for support.
- From Mountain Pose, Tadasana, step your left leg back two to three feet. Line up both heels, keeping the right toes pointing forward and left toes turned to the left 45 degrees. Place your hands on your hips and ensure your hips are squared forward.
- Choose your arm variation, lifting the shoulder heads gently back to avoid hunching. Take a deep inhale and stretch the spine, engaging evenly into both legs.
- Exhale and hinge at the hips, folding over your right leg. Keep the hips square by tucking the right hip back and left hip slightly forward. Keep your gaze down and the back of the neck long (unlike the above photo where I have a dog in my way).
- Come down as far as is comfortable, tucking the chin in and rooting firmly into the feet. Deepen the fold on your exhalations. If you feel unbalanced, bring the hands down for support. Stay for six breaths.
- Press down into the feet and inhale, rolling your spine up to standing. Release the arm variation and step forward to begin again on the other side.
What can you let in when you stop letting go? Tell me below!