Daily Dose of yoga philosophy

We all have our stuff, for lack of a better word (and not wanting to expose you to profanity). Meaning, we all face challenges on a daily basis: some really big, some not-so-big; some we take on gracefully, others not as well. I’ve blogged before about my back trouble, which adds insult to injury in that I feel it to be so unjust for someone who takes good care of herself. Not to mention, someone who has made sharing yoga and healthy inspiration her job. How can debilitating back pain happen to me, a yoga instructor, active outdoor enthusiast, and otherwise very healthy person? Well, that is the question I hope to have answered someday. It would be easier if my body would offer up better clues; there’s no hard physical evidence other than my pain. Sometimes I wonder if it’s my body’s way of forcing me to slow down and rest.

On a normal day, my back is really good to me. It stands tall and supports the rest of my body, it comes along for whatever crazy ride I’m taking it on, it enjoys big, juicy backbends (pictured here: my back on a much better day). How can a spine so flexible suddenly become so immobilized? Again, one of my own personal bodily mysteries.

This round of back trouble, I keep thinking of a Yoga Sutra. Sutra 2.46 describes how asana, the physical practice/poses, ought to be: Sthira sukham asanam. The yoga posture should be both steady and comfortable; a balance between effort and ease that feels delicious and challenging at the same time. (For those of you new to yoga philosophy, the Yoga Sutras were authored by the ancient sage Patanjali. Written at least 1,700 years ago, the Sutras are made up of 195 aphorisms (sutras), or words of wisdom.)

My interpretation of this Sutra is the following: we cannot challenge ourselves and grow if we only do what we’re good at, in yoga and in life. So when we are challenged on the mat, we don’t give up (cue the common in-class tactic of, “I can’t do this pose so I’ll head to the bathroom now”) but rather dig deep to find the comfort and ease amidst the effort. It’s the yogic equivalent to seeing the glass half full. If we can focus on the inner strength that is our foundation and tap into it, then we’re more likely to experience positive results. That means staying grounded while feeling threatened (or experiencing pain).

So exactly how does this apply to my back trouble? Well, it’s finding a way to stay grounded when faced with the physical challenge of say, getting up off the floor to take care of some basic needs like the bathroom and eating. Allowing myself to be open to the opportunities that come out of the necessary quiet, healing time, but not letting it shake my foundation that I can’t do things the way I normally do. Sthira sukham asanam – establish that strong, steady and joyful connection to the earth, your surroundings, and whatever it is that this day has brought you. It requires effort, but there should also be ease. When faced with my own personal crisis, I must adapt, find comfort somehow (despite all the discomfort of back pain), and trust that the most healing will come from staying grounded.

Find ease amongst all the effort, daily. Definitely words to live by.