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Handling the Fluctuations of the Body and Mind During Yoga

One thing I love about Yoga is that there's no such thing as being "good at it." There is no black belt in yoga, there's no destination. It's just about observing the body and breathes. Stilling the mind, opening the heart and patiently watching the process of moving into physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. Through the practice of yoga we cultivate patience, compassion, forgiveness, equanimity.

Our bodies change every day, with the fluctuations of our diet, stress level, sleep patterns, exercise, and environmental conditions. Every morning I wake up, bathe, and go to my mat. I take a deep breath, stretch the arms upward, reaching, lifting, opening, and then gently press the navel back toward the spine as I exhale and dive forward, back flat, into a deep forward bend, uttanasana. Some mornings I find myself at this point laid across my legs, face pressed into my shins, my back nice and long. My breath comes easily, and grows deep. Other mornings I dive into uttanasana and cannot seem to relax the neck. The hamstrings are painfully tight, I feel like bending the knees. The back is stiff, it takes a while to find the breath and the mind is distracted.

It's hard not to have judgments about these fluctuations of body and mind. Many of us have that slightly competitive side that tends to be unforgiving of weakness, in any of its forms. Ever found yourself in a challenging pose thinking, "I WILL make my body do this," and then find yourself falling over, exhausted? Or have you ever found yourself in a more uncomfortable pose, silently repeating the mantra, "I hate this pose, I hate this pose..."?

We can use these moments of self-criticism to go deeper into our practice. When you feel resistance, from the body or the mind, try to pause and stay where you are. Develop acceptance for the place you are at in that moment. Identify any self-judging, and let it go with the breath. Draw your awareness inward and breathe deeply, surrendering to the pose. With the inhalation, feel strength and clear, sparkling energy filling the body with light. On exhalation, let go and accept where you are in that moment.

Yoga (union) cannot be realized by force, because it is not really an achievement. It is an awakening to a reality that has been existing within us from the beginning.