This is a lesson about accessing joy.
During a recent Yin yoga class, the teacher talked about avoiding pain. She spoke of a study, which revealed women giving birth most often ask for pain medication because women fear that the pain will soon become too great, and not because it is too painful in the moment. Moment-to-moment the women in labor in the study reported their pain was bearable, but that if it got any worse they wouldn’t be able to bear it. This can mirror how one often pulls away from living on their growth-edge because people tend to imagine the worsening of pain, rather than staying in the moment. When present to difficult feelings in any given moment, most often the discovery is that it is fine.
In a Yin yoga class, the poses are held for up to 10 minutes (which may feel like forever particularly when the stretch is intense). Students should pay close attention to the panicked instinct to pull back and get out of the pose for relief. When this occurs, rather than getting out of the pose, instead ask to yourself if the instinct is really about too much discomfort in that moment, or if the urge is in response to anticipated pain. Something curious maybe discovered. If attention is brought towards breathing and staying in the moment, there may be a greater level of relaxation, which allows connective fascia to open and stretch. Staying with the present sensation, rather than the worry of what might be felt next is a key.
This type of mindfulness exercise can be applied to emotional stress in life as well. And on a greater level, this discovery may also bring about presence and joy.
How does this relate? Most people have come to bittersweet places of cherishing final moments with people or circumstances of great love and appreciation. When the time arises, ask yourself how you feel right now in the moment rather than the future attachment of not seeing them again. Rather than fear and sadness, a curious thing may happen…frequently this allows for feelings of love and happiness. When focusing on the future, there is a tendency for the anticipation of loss to siphon off the contentment available in the present. Joy is only experienced in the moment and therefore can become greater when we’re present.
So challenges like that brought forth in a Yin yoga class can be great practice for exercising the mind’s awareness on both ends of the spectrum- the ability to stick to the present with the challenging moments, can also allow access for the presence of joy. Being present in the moment allows for a much broader range of emotions and access to more authentic living – to being more radiantly alive. And yoga is a great conduit to allow the practice for this discovery.