The well-known expression that the only constant in life is change resonates in the realm of yoga. Think about the verbal cues: transform, alter, adjust, modify, turn, modulate, switch, adapt. But then at the same time, yoga is about being still: hold, relax, anchor, hook, ground, secure, rest.
On the mat, the transitions between the asanas hold their own magic. This creates a story—a kind of ‘throughline’ which transforms a practice from a collection of discrete moments into a larger moment—the practice itself. The asanas punctuate elements of the narrative and give us an opportunity to reflect in stillness. Reflection, as I have come to understand can happen in action, and on action. As we ground, we can become aware of the corollary: the movement in between the stillness which drove us to a pause—a pose.
It would seem that movement and stillness help to define each other. As do sound and silence, happiness and sorrow, yin and yang. Without one, we would grapple to conceptualize the other as there’d be nothing to compare it to; no journey which transitioned us to the point in the process. Opposing elements can often be understood as the same thing when considered as a whole.
I’m reflecting on this as I’m on the verge of a huge transition out of a secure career in an Ivy League university, and into something way more undefined and malleable. Of course I’ve got butterflies, but they’re flying in formation for the most part. I’ve never held security or convention in high regard. In my 20s I lived and worked in eight different countries: from teaching English in Prague, to training public service in post-conflict Sri Lanka, to delivering undergraduate courses in Hong Kong, to organizing conferences in Cambodia. A lot of movement happened.
From an outsider’s perspective, the ‘throughline’ between posturing myself in these seemingly unconnected scenes may have been less clear than it was to myself. The transition between pauses in many ways helped me identify and contextualize that stillness: I knew where I’d come from and I’d done it mindfully, even if I wasn’t too sure where I was going (and didn’t really want or need to know for sure).
Occasionally, I lacked the trust in myself to understand all of this. When others looked at the journey as a snapshot, the throughline and mindful transitions may not, at first impression, have shone through. This could be perhaps likened to glancing into a yoga studio at points where the class is only holding asanas: Anjaneyasana, Ardha Chandrasana, Malasana, Phalakasana... The essence of practice seems lost here, almost misunderstood. The transitions and breath and focus and narrative is the flavor to be relished. The experience is subjective and only fully understood in the flesh.
So the paradox of change being constant is perhaps not entirely baffling. Without one, the other wouldn’t be relished. In fact, they help to define each other. So in moments where we may have a spiraling feeling, breathe and transition mindfully because a moment of poised stillness is inevitable if we allow ourselves to move there.
Photo by Ali Kaukas
Find your flow (and catch some waves) with us at Wanderlust O'ahu, Feb. 23–26, 2017!