A friend of mine who keeps giving me ideas for the dicussion recently answered one of my sincere questions starting with “But I am like this…”, emphasising the “this” part and letting me know what was clear to her – that was the kind of person she was and it would be hard for her to act in a different way ( an excuse disguised as self- knowledge rooted in the belief that we are one way or the other and changing it is at best painful if at all possible). Indeed, why would she even try, if she had already figured out the way she operated best (did she?) and if going in a different direction would bring some insecutiry?
I had to think about the answer to that why and came up with a simple example from yoga, since both of us are yoga practitioners and I was reading excerpts from Erich Schiffmann’s insightful book on yoga.
If I easier go into the stretch working with the right side of the body rather than with the left side, do I choose to work with the right side only saying this is my easy side and this what I should be doing? Where would this yoga take me on the path of spiritual self- exploration anyway? Just the other way around: I will work with both and give special attention to the left side, using awareness and breath as the tools and hopefully becoming more balanced and harmonious. Of course, this would not be easy but neither is walking around out of balance and being completely ignorant of it! Why do we think we should work on developing the “weaker” side of the body once we become aware of it but completely give up on the sides of your personality where we are stuck, willing to live with it?
In yoga, two different, opposite forces are at work simaltaneously: pushing and yielding. Pushing is a more active force, the one that brings us deeper into the posture, “…gently exploring the areas of tightness”*, while yielding is a more passive, receptive force, that makes us aware of the response from the body and “that allows the active force to be successful without being aggressive”*. The blending of the two makes yoga a truly wonderful experience but it often happens that we tend to be either toward a pusher or toward a yielder (I don’t know if those words even exist, I guess they do now).
Hopefully my friend will soon discover just as I did, that yoga is not some exotic activity out there and yogic life does not end as we step off the yoga mat into the reality of the every day life. In fact, we never leave that reality even when we are on the mat! In life, I tend to be more of a pusher, striving forward, pushing and enduring the pain of resistance. Is it surprising that I tend to be the same way in yoga if I don’t become aware of it and work with it? (In fact, my becoming aware of it brought me to yoga as the practice that would help me balance my both sides and help me learn to see what the appropriate response is in each momentum).
” In order for yoga to feel right, a proper balance is necessary between push and yiled. Too much push has a driven quality that betrays a harshness and severity toward oneself that is probably displayed in other areas of life as well (!!!). …
The other extreme occurs when “fire” is lacking, when there is no exploratory thrust, when it is predominantly yield. Yoga performed in this manner is dull and lethargic, all effort, energy, and intensity being avoided…”.
(Yeah, balance seems to be the keyword… Was he really talking about yoga?)
“Depending on your personality, you may find yourself tending toward one or the other of these extremes. If so, understand that there is an appropriate balance oof these forces. If you tend toward being agressive and more overly goal-oriented, try allowing more surrender and yield into more practice. This will not slow down or interfere with your progress. In fact, learning to yield, be patient, and deliberately enter more slowly into the poses will actually increase the depth of your poses. It will help you achieve more easily what you are now attempting through excessive force…”*.
Better results with less efforts, who would say no to that?
“…If your tendency is to yield, and not be assertive, try being more adventuresome, energetic, and exploratory. This can work to your advantage and be very pleasing, without being very difficult or stressful…”*
So – push and yield. In yoga and in life. Become aware of your other side and bring it into your awareness, let it enrich your life and broaden your understanding of who you are. This, too, IS YOU.