Of all the experiences I’ve had with my eyes open, the ones that have been most invaluable have occurred with my eyes closed.
During my yoga teacher training, our teacher blindfolded us and we practiced a whole class trying not to peek. This taught me two things: 1. I will always try to peek (am I right?) and, more seriously, 2. We carry around an entire world each day that we barely get to “see.”
The journey to our inner world is like a pendulum. Sometimes we’re totally tuned in, hovering dead center, until the world gives us a swing and off we go from one extreme to the next. It takes a while to calm back down, for the inertia to wear off.
A brief science class refresher: Inertia is the resistance of any physical object to change its motion.
Yoga is a catch-and-release game of resistance. Our bodies and minds endeavor to preserve their current state, and we endeavor to disrupt. We intentionally put our bodies into interesting yoga asanas to witness what happens.
And that’s the funny thing — we do this practice just to see what happens. Not to judge, label, make better or do away with what happens.
By just noticing, or just closing our eyes, we often see clearly for the first time.
Would you still practice yoga if you had to close your eyes every time?
Seems like a pain, right? How would we ever make progress on poses? How would we ever compare ourselves to the teacher or to other students to see if we’re doing it “right”?
Both of these things would gratify us in the short-term. But stretching your limits is as much an internal as an external game. And with eyes wide open, we miss precious moments every day that remind us we’re doing just fine and that maybe there is no “right.”
- Like resting in Pigeon Pose for 5 minutes on each side, every bit of screaming to get out, but you breathe and hold and try to surrender, knowing this is nothing compared to that one time you… [fill in the blank.]
- Like catching the tongue on the roof of your mouth in Savasana, and then the tension in your right palm, and then the grip in the sides of your neck. And wondering how long these things have been going on without your input.
- Like saying you’ll meditate for 10 minutes every day without fail, and then actually doing it with no expectation for the outcome and no judgment during the process.
When you let go
Yoga is the path of most resistance, but it is also the way through.
You can hop on the pendulum and swing and swing and swing. Unless changed by an external force, your inertia will keep you headed in the same direction, prepared to meet the same circumstances and with the same reactions.
The sweetness about resistance is each time you let go, your direction changes. You relax into an inner world that is intimate with happiness.
Physiologically, letting go is found in reciprocal inhibition. When one muscle is contracted, the central nervous system sends a message to relax the opposing muscle. If both muscles fire at the same time (in the case of a stronger muscle overpowering a weak muscle) a tear can occur.
We bump up against resistance on our yoga mats again and again, hoping that this time our hips will feel free or our minds will stop chatting or we’ll finally manifest our intention.
When you next feel compelled to be anywhere other than where you are right now, close your eyes. Ask why. Breathe deep.
And notice, just notice, what happens when you let go.
Try it: Elephant’s Trunk Pose, Eka Hasta Bhujasana
What better way to find resistance in our bodies than to lift our own body weight? What comes up is a whole lot of a. How do I do that? or b. I know how to do that, but I feel like I’m barely off the ground.
Forget trying to look like the pose. Be the version of the pose that best suits you. Oh, and wipe out any resistance to the idea that you can’t — just see what happens.
P.S. Elephant’s Trunk Pose is also a specialty of Willow’s. Check out that paw action!
- Prep both legs with Leg Cradle and Leg Over Arm before moving on.
- Sit with both legs straight in front of you. Bring the right leg into your chest. Snug your right arm under your right knee, placing the palm on the floor next to the right glute. Keep the elbow bent. With your left hand, snug your right leg up closer to the shoulder.
- Place the left palm back on the mat near your left glute. Both sets of fingers should be face forward. Inhale deeply and open the chest forward, broadening the collar bones.
- Exhale, engage your abdomen and hug tightly into center as you raise the hips and lift the left straightened leg off the mat.Tucking the pelvis either forward or back like a pendulum can help you find your balance and make the lift more accessible.
- Hug the inner thighs toward the center of your mat. Press eagerly through both feet and spread the toes as you evenly inhale and exhale. Stay for one breath, maybe even half a breath. As you grow more comfortable, stay for four breaths.
- Exhale and release yourself gently back down. Unwind and pause, legs in front of you, to notice what arose in the mind and the body. Practice the other side when ready.