Yoga can bring up surprising waves of emotions.
On vacation last week, I spent a surprising amount of time with tears in my eyes. Each day, as I walked along the beach to the tip of the island and back, my mind would wander away from the breathtaking beauty around me to ponder my youngest child’s looming departure for college and I would cry a little. Sitting on the beach, toddlers shrieking with delight at tiny waves brought tidal waves of memories of my own three little ones splashing in the shallows and I would cry a little bit more. Waiting in line for ice cream I found myself watching mothers wrangling their chocolate-covered little ones and cried a little bit more.
My tears really flowed while I was in savasana (resting pose) at the yoga classes I attended. It’s not even a little surprising for emotions to rise to the surface during a yoga practice. And given my nostalgic frame of mind as I pondered my “emptying nest,” I kind of expected it. In fact, none of my tears bothered me. I know they are a sign that I’m processing my feelings about the coming change on the horizon of my life.
You’ve gotta let go of who you are, so you can become who you are meant to be.
I was gentle with myself in class, focusing 100% of my awareness on my teacher’s words and on my own experience on my mat. My teacher closed each class with the same words, but it wasn’t until my last class that I realized that, though he had no way of knowing what was going on in my life, he could have chosen them just for me.
“Let go of who you are, so you can become who you are meant to be. Let go of what you are holding on to, so you can receive what you need.” – Bill Soens, Sol Luna Yoga, Avalon, NJ
Bill was teaching a concept called aparigraha (non-possessiveness). Non-possessiveness is one of yoga’s ten guiding philosophies included in the ancient text, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The sutra for aparigraha is translated as follows:
“One who overcomes possessiveness and a grasping mind, he or she will gain knowledge of the past, present and future.” – Yoga Sutra 2.39
While it’s not yet provided me with a crystal ball to know what the future holds, non-possessiveness is astoundingly life-changing when applied to the beliefs you hold to be true about yourself.
You can practice letting go on your yoga mat.
Yoga has a lovely way of giving us a simple, tangible place to start working with its philosophy: the yoga mat. Each time we unroll our mat, yoga asks us to let go of any beliefs we hold about what we can and cannot do. In other words, we cease to assume that we won’t be able to touch our toes in our forward folds, choosing instead to wonder if we’ll be able to touch our toes today. This curious mindset keeps us open to possibility and change.
This openness is not just mental – it is physical. When we exhale into our forward fold with open-minded curiosity, our muscles actually stay soft and pliable. We do not tense up as we reach the place where we had to bend our knees yesterday. Instead, we keep breathing and see where our stretch ends today. And, every once in a blue moon, we find that we can go deeper! In a nutshell, by letting go of assumptions and beliefs, we stay open to change. It is by being open to change that we allow ourselves to change. The opposite is also true. When we resist or fight change, we eliminate the possibility for our own growth.
Letting go requires a leap of faith.
Bill’s wise words sank into my heart at the end of my last class with him. Navigating this passage from one stage of life to the next is an opportunity to practice aparigragha. I need to let go of who I am and have been for the last 22 years – a full-time mother of kids who sees my children daily – in order to become who I am meant to be now, which remains to be seen. I need to let go of what I have – my kids under my roof – in order to receive what I need now, which also remains to be seen.
And that’s the thing. Aparigraha requires a leap of faith. Just because we know a change is upon us doesn’t mean we know who it is we’re meant to become or what it is we need. If we’re lucky, our practice has taught us over and over again that growth and change are guaranteed. It’s also taught us that growth and change always bring us closer to who we’re meant to become. This knowledge makes it a little easier to spread our wings and leap into the unknown.
Feeling emotional is OK! It is often a part of embracing change.
As I rolled up my mat with Bill’s words in my heart, I knew that feeling sad and nostalgic right now is fine (I would go so far as to say it is healthy). Mourning the end of a stage of life as long and as meaningful as the one that is ending in my life is totally appropriate. In the few moments it took me to wipe my eyes (more tears!) and find my flip-flops, I realized that my sorrow does not mean that I am resisting this change. In fact, the opposite is true. I am curious and excited about what life has in store for me. I am wide open to the possibilities that lie ahead.
As my last “little birdie” spreads her wings to fly from my nest, I realize that my wings are spread too. And, because of my years of practice with aparigraha on and off the mat, I know that the sky is the limit when I release my grasp on what is and stay open to what could be.
Are you, like me, working on letting go? Come practice in the safe space provided by your mat and our studio. Find a class that works for you.