40 Days to Personal Revolution: A Breakthrough Program to Radically Change Your Body and Awaken the Sacred Within Your Soul
By Baron Baptiste
Life is full of pressure and difficult moments. In an instant, we can turn the arrows of strife into opportunities simply learn to relax with what is. Wisdom comes from not losing our cool in turbulent moments. The yoga master B. K. S. Iyengar once said: "Before we can find peace among nations, we have to find peace inside that small nation which is our own being."
Years ago, I was leading a bootcamp in Hawaii. I was swimming in the ocean when all of a sudden a sea snake zipped through the water and latched onto the leg of a woman standing on the reef. She started screaming and screaming and screaming. I didn't have time to panic. I just reached down into the water, grabbed the snake, pulled it off her leg, and threw it far oft* into the distance. Something in me clicked, and I relaxed in that strange moment rather than flailing and freaking out. Because I was at ease, I was able to think on my feet and intuitively knew what to do.
Many of us have had moments like these. They serve as a powerful reminder that when we relax in the face of stress, a power greater than ourselves can act through us. At any given moment, the compassionate, frictionless flow of the universe wants to help us, if only we will allow it. We can always put our thoughts, our effort, our resistance, our reaction aside and trust in an intelligence that is, perhaps, smarter than we are.
Sometimes people ask me why my power yoga classes are so challenging. I've learned that intense physical challenge allows students to see in the moment how much more effective relaxing is than struggling. It's about bypassing your resistance. When you are at your most tired, you don't have the energy to resist. You relax, you stop forcing, essentially because there is no other choice, and then suddenly you discover that the source of grace was there waiting for you all along, willing and happy to help you discover a strength and wisdom that you in fact already have. The moment you stop forcing a result, you develop a mental and muscular poise under pressure.
For instance, hip-opening poses can feel very intense, because we hold not only gravity but also our emotional lives in our hips. As the pressure builds, you are faced with three choices: (1) run away (i.e., come out of the pose), (2) stay and struggle, or (3) stay, relax, and discover what is really there.
I have a student who is a writer and sits in a chair for long hours every day, making her hips especially tight. She shared with me an experience she had during a practice: She was getting tired and just didn't have the energy to struggle and resist any longer, so she let go of her mental rope and relaxed into her body. When she relaxed, the physical pain was much less, and revelations began to explode in her mind. What started as a struggle became a spiritual experience for her. All through that long hold, she would ask herself, "Is there another level I can relax into... another layer I can surrender into?" The answer each time was yes, and in the end her hip joints relaxed and flowered open to a whole new degree, as did her self-perception.
In this release, she saw her practice as a microcosm of her whole life. She acknowledged that she had an unconscious fear that if she let go, she would see how out of control she actually was in her life, and how much of this stemmed from a deeper sense of insecurity. Deep down, she believed that if anyone saw how she really was, they would reject her, so she held on tightly to the mask she'd created. Without realizing it, many of us find a way to keep our own natural peace at bay, and control is certainly one means of doing so. Ideally our practice shows us how to transform difficult circumstances into a path of enlightenment.
In yoga practice, there may be sensations that you don't like, and that's okay. Don't judge. Simply realize that pain is part of life. If you grow, there is pain, and if you don't grow, there is pain. The key is in noticing and not reacting. Of course, you will want to make the distinction between good and had pain. If it is bad pain, which will feel sharp and electric, your body is sending you a message to back off. Good pain, on the other hand, feels more like a deep stretch, a soreness, or a strong sensation in your muscles; this is the threshold to a new body, a new psychology, and a new spirit. As uncomfortable as it is, it usually holds lessons and can give new direction if we stay open and relax with the discomfort just as it is.