One of the many reasons I gravitate toward the practice of yoga is because of the parallels and metaphors that exist between the poses and life. In a recent class led by Anders Tremont-Nelson in a suburb of Denver, Colorado, I was reminded of an important perspective that not only applies on the mat, but also in many facets of life.
The key message in this class was that it’s easy and natural to focus on the approach in a pose, but it’s less intuitive to consider the return. On your mat, this might look like the focus you give to getting into a pose, like tree pose. Likely you’re tuned into the sensation of your standing foot rooting into your mat, placing the sole of your opposite foot on your inner thigh, your sole pressing into your inner thigh as your inner thigh presses against your sole, engaging your core, lengthening your spine, your hands at heart center or growing your branches to the sky, and choosing a fixed point of focus to set yourself up for success. You are tuned in to all the components - and boy are there are many - you need for a successful pose, and your mind is fully present to making that a reality.
As Anders shared, for some the work stops there. For some, as they return to placing both feet on the mat, they just fall out quickly and clumsily. For others, despite the concentration they put into getting into the pose, they might fall out of the pose. It can be far more difficult to focus on the return to a centered place or to a pose you fell out of - and that is where the real work, and real yoga, often begins.
In this post, we’ll dive into what this means as you take this yoga lesson off the mat and into life.
The first time you commit to something, whether it be a yoga pose, a new job, or a relationship, you tend to be the most intentional and focused. Just like coming into tree pose in class, you are likely more present and aware, sometimes even calculated, in the initial phases of any commitment in your life. Take your most recent relationship, or your long-time relationship, for example. Do you remember the thought, intention, and focus you put into the initial communication with your partner? And, how about a new job? You likely carefully chose each word with your boss, and put everything you could into succeeding in every job duty, initially.
But, when that relationship goes sideways or your job has a lot of friction, do you put as much time and effort into every detail after a “falling out”? Are you as mindful in how you communicate to your partner when you're having a rough day? Do you get lazy with healthy relationship behaviors after you get settled into a relationship? Just like coming back into tree pose after losing your balance, it’s often much more difficult to recommit during the return than in the original approach.
Focusing on the return
Focusing on the return applies in many situations. In relationships, this might mean returning to yourself after a relationship ends. In practice, this is returning to self-care, the outcomes of lessons learned, and focusing on forgiveness, toward both yourself and others. It also includes re-evaluating your dating goals and approach to dating again. After quitting a stressful job, this might be returning to work-life balance and humility as you return to the workforce. You might revisit your goals, values, and boundaries during this time of transition. These “returns” require grace and just as much intention as your original approach, if not more. And, just like yoga, connecting with breath and remaining focused on the moment will accelerate your return to wholeness following any falling out in life.
Yoga is full of metaphors for life and important reminders about the journey, as are other sports and activities. At Center for Shared Insight, we weave these themes and connections into our work with clients to make insights more memorable. If you have gone through a recent transition in life and are struggling in the “return” contact our team to share more about your story and understand how our Denver-based therapists can help.