In class, you will often hear us asking you to back off of depth or to not chase the stretching sensation. We know that this contradicts what many of us have heard for years in yoga classes; that it goes against the idea that more movement is better for our joints and physiological health. We have been inundated with the notion of opening our hips or shoulders, opening our hearts and our minds. For every person that needs a bit more available movement in their joints, there are just as many people that need less movement or “openness” to reduce pain and discomfort. Stability and mobility cannot exist without one another.
The trick is finding the balance between those two states that allow our bodies to operate with efficiency and power. When we find that sweet spot we will often feel “spacious”. The power will add an element of weightlessness. We feel unburdened and fluid. The efficiency will make us feel more energetic as if our endurance has multiplied. And while there is definitely work and lots of practice time involved in this process, I have found that it’s mostly a task of changing perspective. Of backing off of ourselves in the mental realm. Of giving ourselves SPACE to figure out where our sweet spot is. Often when we take public classes, we will bypass our built-in guardrails in order to do as we are told or to get a teachers approval.
We can so easily get carried away in the momentum of practicing amongst others. We strive to be good students and have been conditioned all of our lives that that means doing as we are told and believing someone else over ourselves when it comes to what our bodies need. We have also been led to believe that getting to a certain point of flexibility or strength is the goal. What happens if we redefine these arbitrary definitions and flip the perspective?
When you step back and give yourself some space, you can leave the definitions of success and achievement up to your own needs. Success can be finally learning the signals your nervous system is sending you to stop moving at a certain depth in a backbend and actually abiding by that. Therefor nurturing your spine rather than forcing it to fit into a meaningless shape. Success can be staying in final savasana until your system is calm and rested. Just the process of learning the difference between being tired and being calm can be a huge achievement in the path of learning how to care for yourself. When we are able to pause and give ourselves space in the mental realm that is always narrating a list of “must do’s” and “must be’s” we can learn to sense where we are, what we need and what is really happening. With clearer information, we are able to make different decisions about how to use the toolbox of our physical practice.
Many people have reached out about the changing business structure with so much support and interest in why I am turning towards a smaller class size for Open Door classes. For several years, I have struggled on a heart level with WHY I was still trying to get 35 or more people into a class. Why had I created a studio model dependent on that to stay alive? I finally stepped back from my incessant drive to become what I thought I was supposed to become and really looked and felt deeply about where that drive was coming from. In the heart of that, I realized it was contradicting everything in the internal world that made me feel productive and happy. I redefined “success” in my head based on the interactions that made me feel like the teacher I wanted to be. Listening to those signals and paying attention to feedback from my system required going past a healthy point in my relationship with my business. In other words, I had to keep pushing in the wrong direction until I knew for sure it wasn’t the right direction. Once I knew, it was so freeing and liberating. I felt like I had cracked a cryptic code. Inside this spaciousness of knowing what needed to change to continue to nurture the community relieved a huge burden of trying to force a square peg into a round hole, so to speak.
The funny irony is that in order to keep moving towards that spaciousness I have invited in more people, more practitioners, and teachers in order to support the community. Sometimes less space frees us from the constant cycle of trying to fill it. In our physical practice, ending the quest for more depth can often leave you in a shape or position where you have more power and ability to sense clearly. The next time you are in a posture and you feel the urge to go deeper and chase that feeling of stretch, try giving yourself some space instead.