Time for Transitions
As summer draws to a close – Labor Day gone! – life returns to the hum and grind of daily routine. Kids go back to school. Bags are unpacked from vacation and clean laundry folded, tucked away in their homes of shelves and drawers. Old jobs returned to or new ones begun. It’s a time of transition, of change.
And change is good, right? It’s what makes life interesting, keeps it from disappearing down that great chasm of sameness and boredom. And there’s so much change, always, invading our lives. Some welcome, some not so much: new schools, marriage, divorce, new home, new job, babies, watching your babies go off to college.
Change is hard, even positive change. Saying goodbye to a part of you or to an experience is one thing; accepting what is new and unknown is another. And embracing change may become even more challenging as we age and grow accustomed to things staying the same. Change in our lives is like an arthritic joint: the more we use it, even if painful, the less stiff and rigid it will be. Using that joint, as difficult as it may seem, will make it become less painful.
In yoga, transitions are often overlooked: those moments between poses, when you inhale and curl up into cobra pose or exhale as you lower yourself down from a backbend. It is way more interesting, more exciting somehow, to be in the pose. To master it, to straighten your arms in crow pose or balance in the middle of the room in headstand – as if that were the actual goal of yoga itself. To be sure, it’s empowering to feel good in a pose, to move in a way that makes sense in the world and in your body.
But what about those hiccups of space that form between each pose? In practicing Sun Salutations, one’s breath is connected intimately with each movement as it flows into the next. That holds true as well, however, when you exhale your hands to the floor from Warrior 2 or inhale as you come up from camel pose. Those moments are part of a continual shift, an opportunity for renewal – and dare I say it? – transformation.
What are you thinking during those moments? Are you stuck on that last pose, angry with yourself because you didn’t “get it” the way you had hoped? Or – God knows I’ve been there -- the way you think your neighbor on the mat next to you did? Maybe you’re just interested in what’s coming next, rushing through the transition to get to that next pose. Or maybe you’re praying to be finished with what you’re doing and to just get on with it.
Maybe it’s none of those things. But however you react on the mat often reflects how you react in life: Are you dwelling on the past, what has been? Are you tumbling headlong into what’s coming next? The practice of yoga focuses on bringing one’s awareness to the present, to what is happening right now, in the moment. To your breath. But each moment doesn’t occur in a vacuum, solitary and mute. What comes before and what lies ahead create the circumference around which each moment is held. In letting go of what has been, we can stay open to what will be.
In yoga and in life.