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A Very Sweet YES

Last week, I talked about the ‘no’ inside of a ‘yes’. This week, I want to talk about the sweetest ‘yes’ and how this ‘yes’ can allow us to participate more fully in our lives. This is the big YES of surrender.

In his Textbook of Ayurveda: Fundamental Principles, Dr. Vasant Lad poetically explains,

“To say ‘yes’ means to allow a thought or circumstance to flower, to let go and expand. We say ‘yes’ to some things and ‘no’ to other things. Our ‘yes’ and ‘no’ are opposite. But there is a ‘yes’ beyond ‘yes’ and that ‘yes’ is existence. The trees say ‘yes’ to every season. When spring comes, they say ‘yes’ and they flower. When summer comes, they say ‘yes’ and become dry and thirsty. When fall comes, they say ‘yes’, change color and are ready to drop their leaves. To say ‘yes’ means to surrender – to every thought, feeling and emotion. It means to let go, and letting go is a journey towards the heart.”  (211)

This profound teaching to surrender to ‘what is’ is more practical than you might think. To stop denying our realities can often be the first step to growth. Let me explain how this has helped me both in the gradual unwinding of my hips.

My hips used to be super-tight. When I first started practicing yoga, I couldn’t even sit on the floor and be remotely comfortable. I wasn’t even in a neighboring zip code (state? country?) to being remotely comfortable. So, of course, in my tightness and general misunderstanding, when double pigeon was offered in class, I tried to force my hips open. Even though the teacher would usually offer an option for less-flexible folks,  I wanted to look like those flexible people surrounding me. I didn’t want to be the tightest person in class. I wasn’t ready to accept my tightness. So I struggled against it. And it was painful.

Not only was this painful – forcing myself didn’t work. I needed to be ready to acknowledge my situation to put myself in an asana variation where I could find more ease and less struggle. I also need to acknowledge that you can’t force hips open. I am not just being philosophical, there is something called the stretch reflex which causes the muscle to contract when you go too far, too fast. Read more here:

Furthermore, I was ignoring the point of the posture – to receive the benefit of more open hips and finding more ease in the lower back. I didn’t quite understand that yoga is a practice, not a performance. I thought that had I to ‘perform’ the postures. In doing so, I was saying ‘no’ to an acknowledgment of the current state of my body.

It was not until a conversation with a teacher that went something like this:

Me: “Double-pigeon is SO hard for me.”

Teacher: “You might want to try half-pigeon for a while to prepare.”

Me: “Oh.” (processing and realizing that, now that my struggle was publicly acknowledged, I would have to ‘do’ an ‘easier’ posture.)

On some level, I finally had to say, “YES. I give up!” trying to force myself into double pigeon. I had to give up trying to be someone who “does double pigeon”. I had to say ‘yes’ to the present state of my body to be able to skillfully engage with it to ultimately change. Although my ego didn’t initially like this letting go, it was still a relief – something like the freedom you feel when you are in a staring contest and quit. In the case of choosing half-pigeon, the relief was immediate as now that I was able to choose a posture in which I could physically relax more and actually enjoy the posture. It also provided long term benefits of being able to eventually release a lot of tension in my hips.

Surrender can be when we finally decide that we will not wait for some future moment to be happy and to fully inhabit our own lives. This might mean we choose half pigeon instead of double pigeon, to feel an emotion and let it go, or to look directly at what is happening and then engage. Surrender can mean no longer trying to be someone else, but being more fully ourselves. Surrender can mean saying ‘yes’ to who we are now. This can be a very, very sweet ‘YES’.

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