Living the Easy Life

EasePictureA few weeks ago, I visited my brother in Atlanta and he took me to an Ashtanga yoga studio that he had recently found in the city.  The day I attended class was a day of teacher training, so it was one of those amazing classes where there are nearly as many assistants as there are students.

A few days later one of the teacher trainees asked my brother if I had enjoyed class and told him what a graceful practice I had – she said it seemed like I took every pose with such a sense of ease.

My brother called me later that night and asked me if I had ever heard that before.  I couldn’t help but feel a little pleased because no – I had never heard that before, but that was something that I have been working diligently to instill in my yoga practice for the past several months.

During my own yoga teacher training, a fellow trainee led a workshop on yoga for golfers.  At the start of the workshop, she asked us to write on a golf ball what we wanted to bring to our yoga practice that day.  I immediately knew what I wanted and needed – I boldly wrote on my golf ball ‘EASE.’

I believe that one of the most powerful aspects of yoga is our ability to practice on our mats that which we want to practice in our lives – whether that is strength, compassion or any other quality.  At the time that I was going through yoga teacher training, I desperately wanted to start living my life with more ease.  I had just quit my job to begin a new career as a yoga teacher and was moving across the country back to my hometown following the training.

I was struggling with the uncertainty of what would happen when I actually finished training – would I be able to find enough teaching opportunities to make this career change work?  Would returning to my hometown be a wonderful homecoming or a return to my less-than wonderful high school years?  I knew that the next few months would be a time of immense change and I wanted to handle this time with ease – something that I had never tried in the past.

For the first 30 years of my life, I would say the word on my golf ball would have been ‘FORCEFUL.’ On my yoga mat, I was always the one to take the advanced option even when that meant struggling and shaking to get there.  I was the reason all yoga teachers repeat, Relax your shoulders.  Off my mat, I was very driven and oftentimes single-minded.

Because of this mindset, many good things did happen – I excelled academically and professionally and accomplished many things of which I am proud.  But this attitude also had negative consequences as I forced many things to happen because I thought it would create the life that I should have.  I often used the expression that I would just “power through this” – I powered through a graduate degree that wasn’t the right fit for me and relationships that were toxic.

Looking back, I powered through years of my life because I thought it would get me to where I was supposed to be.

In my yoga practice and in my life, I am now practicing a sense of ease.  Rather than forcing what I think should be, I am taking ease with what is.  And amazingly, I am finding out that this new approach is taking me so much further and faster than powering through ever did.  Sure my life doesn’t look like what I once thought it would, but I’m finding that it’s actually a much happier life than the one I imagined I should have.

I still practice yoga and live my life with a sense of power and strength, but I have tempered that with a sense of ease and grace.  When I find myself reverting back to that idea of powering through something that I know isn’t right, I take out my golf ball and focus on my intention.

I challenge you to do the same thing – The next time you find yourself in frog pose tensing all your muscles and counting down the seconds until it is over or telling yourself you’re going to stick with a job you hate for just one more year, choose instead to breathe and allow yourself some ease and grace.  I think you will find, like I have, that being less forceful and more easeful actually leads to a much more powerful life.

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