Using Yoga to Succeed

“your body knows what to do, we need to let go, step out of the way, and let it”


Mind over what matters:

Trapped in a flea circus

There once was a man who traveled with his flea circus from town to town. He kept his miniature talent in a 1ft x1ft red velvet and shimmering gold striped box with a lid. He would enter a city with gusto, set up the box, and charge the townspeople 5 cents to peer in the small window he cut into the side. He adorned it with a mini tight rope, a mini high swing, and a mini-trampoline inside the box. The townspeople "ooooh-ed" and "awe-ed" as the audience watched the fleas jump and land on one of these adornments. One day after touring five cities in 3 days, the man took the lid off the box to repair the tight rope that had fallen during an unusually bumpy ride from the last town. After removing the cover, he noticed-as fleas do- they were jumping only as high as where the lid would have been. His fleas presented learned behavior; they had adapted their ability to jump only to the height of the box's lid, which they had been in all their lives. The man jumped for joy as he could double his viewing audience by leaving the cover off, and the fleas would not jump out. He was delighted…..but were the fleas?

A few years ago, while traveling through India, I stumbled upon a Tantra Ashram in Canacona, India. A weary traveler is lucky to find an ashram on the humid days before the monsoon. I was then scheduled to practice yoga 6 hours a day. It was the same sequence over and over again. The evening practices stretched out over 3 hours, which allowed us to challenge ourselves by breathing into more extended stays in the asanas or more peaceful stays in savasana. Sometimes the students would hold an asana for up to five minutes; sometimes, they would "do" the whole sequence by listening while lying in savasana. I did this Tantra practice over and over and over again………..and I wouldn't say I liked it.

I struggled with the quiet that came with practicing on the rooftop of the shala with 150 other Tantra yogis. Next, I worked with the physical and mental exhaustion of practicing my asanas to be completely relaxed. Third, I struggled with realizing that I was holding on to some profound emotions that I was not ready to face yet but were bubbling to the surface. Finally, I struggled with my internal struggle.

The final asana in the Tridoshic balancing sequence is Chakrasana (wheel pose/backbend). Tantra is a practice, as all the asanas are a practice, by relaxing in savasana, then taking a deep inhale and pushing into the ground with your feet and hands and then "popping up" into a backbend. One problem was I was not "popping"; I was struggling. Day after day, I fought through it, and at the moment when everyone was supposed to "pop up" into chakrasana, I felt like a turtle with weakened legs barely rolling onto the top of my head. I told myself that this was "silly," "completely stupid," and "there was no way in hell that I was EVER going to go up into the backbend." I started to list off the reasons, "I am too old," "I am too overweight," "my wrist hurt," "my shoulders are too tight," and "It's way too hot." Laying there in the humid Indian air, I mentally constructed the "lid to my box."

I spent the better part of 2 weeks telling myself I couldn't do chakrasana. Finally, one day I sat down with my teacher at lunch and said, "I am having trouble with my back bend at the end of practice. If you could help me lift my hips, I think I can nail it." My teacher looked at me, took three bites of his food before responding, and with that famous Indian head wobble, he said, "It will come." I was shocked and mumbled to mask my frustration, "so you will not help me?" He chuckled, picked up his plate, and walked away as he said, "it will come." I slumped in my chair and thought, "ugh, this place is impossible!". Week 3 still no backbend; although every day that passed, I tried as hard as I could, there was still no "pop".

Week 4: One day, I was exhausted. India will do that to you-it will drain you mentally and physically. On this particular day, I had no struggle left. I remember thinking, "Out of pure exhaustion, I will let go," so I did. I didn't know about anything for the entire 3 hours. I allowed myself to breathe, eyes closed, listening to the instructors and flowing through the asanas. My body moved effortlessly through the asanas. I let go of having to "do" yoga and "was" yoga, linking my body with my breath and tapping into the energies around me. I wasn't thinking about the asanas or how my mind didn't know I could do them. The end of the practice came quickly; as I eased through the rest of my course, I found myself floating into the final asana. I took a deep breath in, let go, and "popped up".

After savasana, I stumbled down the stairs to the dining hall. The classical Indian nuclear sunset beyond the Arabian sea and my world were illuminated with the brightest colors. I could see so much clearer now. I had broken through the lid of my self-constructed box. Once I removed that "lid," I could do everything I had always wanted. Tantra's philosophy says, "your body knows what to do; we need to let go, step out of the way, and let it" This moment changed my life and thus everything I do in my life. It changed the way I approach everything. I have found the secret that allows me to push past obstacles in my life and live them in the best way possible. Tantra is a practice. Every day I practice letting go, relaxing in situations, and allowing my best self to shine effortlessly.

To all those wandering souls who have forgotten their truth and started listening to the lies, people told them. To those that cannot see the forest through the trees. To those that limit themselves because someone told them they should stay small. It's time to step out of the fire and see what your adversities have forged for you. To all those spiritual seekers and dream chasers

Early bird sign up ends March 1st. Online and Live in pittsburgh, pa

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