Can you feel the challenge of this moment, this difficult situation that you’re in? What would it take to transform it into ease? Crazy as it seems, I’m finding the answers and the techniques for this transformation come from yoga. Who knew? Let me explain.
We tend to think of our bodies as completely separate from our emotions and our thoughts. And yet that couldn’t be further from the truth. They are oh so very connected. That’s what’s so much fun about doing and teaching yoga. No one comes to my yoga classes expecting they will be working on life skills. They come to help their bodies in some way – whether it’s to sleep better, gain flexibility, strength, balance or to de-stress. All of that is completely legitimate. And if that’s all one gets from yoga that would be more than enough, right? Those are the benefits that get people in the door. But the really cool thing about yoga – the thing you don’t hear much about – is the way yoga can positively affect other areas of your life – off the mat. It’s a subtle thing that evolves gradually. You build the skills on the mat in class. And then one day you discover how these very same skills and techniques transfer into everyday situations. You realize that almost effortlessly you have the ability to handle what’s happening because you’re skilled at dealing with discomfort and transforming it into ease. This is SO COOL!
Not everyone who does yoga gets this. How do people miss it? They miss it because it’s subtle. It doesn’t happen all at once. It’s a skill that builds over time. Here’s how it works. You start with a yoga pose that’s challenging. My first response is to think – yuck – I hate this pose. When is it going to be over? Ugh – ouch – grrrr. How much time is left till Savasana?
But then I turn my attention to my breath, breathing in and imagining sending my breath into an area of discomfort. This process brings my focus right to the troublesome area. I exhale and try to release tension from this area. I notice the subtlest sense of relief. I become curious and am motivated to keep working with my breath to see if I can soften around the edges of the discomfort. I’m not sure I feel any improvement this time – well perhaps a millimeter of success – but I could just be imagining that. And then thankfully it’s time to move on to another pose.
The next time I come to this uncomfortable pose I work again to use my breath to focus on exactly what I’m feeling, and I try to release and soften the tension on the exhale. Progress isn’t obvious, but it gives me something to do other than resist and silently complain to myself. And then one day I realize the pose comes rather easily. It’s such a surprise. It sneaks up on me and I find I actually enjoy the pose. Heck – I revel in it – feeling freedom and ease.
This has happened to me so many times on the mat, that it’s second nature to use this technique to deal with any physical discomfort. Because I thoroughly trust this technique, it seems natural to use it in other situations, situations of emotional discomfort. It works the same way, by first noticing my emotional discomfort, and then turning my focus inward to my body to search for where I’m holding body tension. Once I find the place (and there’s always a place of tension in the body when one is experiencing emotional discord), then I inhale and imagine sending my breath to that place of tension. On the exhale I try to release the body tension. It’s exactly the same process as working with a yoga posture. Focusing on how my body feels and using my breath to soften around the edges of the discomfort subtly transforms the physical AND emotional sensations. This is powerful stuff. It doesn’t happen all at once – but it does work and suddenly I realize I have the tools to transform discomfort into ease. It’s a skill I’m motivated to continue cultivating.
We hear all the time that aging comes with increasing discomfort. But is it possible that it could be just the opposite? What if, as we age, we get increasingly skilled at transforming discomfort into ease? What if each year brings more ease and contentment? Here’s the trick in all this. We have to be willing to feel the discomfort and be present to it in order to work with it and transform it. Are you willing to feel it?
~ Sue Hardman-Conklin
Questions to Ponder
- What’s your go-to response when you feel discomfort, whether it’s physical or emotional?
- Do you resist what you are feeling, pushing against it, saying to yourself things like, “Yuck, I hate this! When is this going to be over? Why this? Why me? When will I get relief? Why did that person act that way to upset me? They need to change. What’s wrong with them, etc?”
- Do you keep yourself busy or distracted with eating or entertainment to avoid feeling discomfort?
- What if you had effective tools for transforming discomfort into ease? Would you be willing to allow yourself to be more present with your body – more willing to feel within?