I am learning about the art of surrender through the practice of yoga. I found yoga when I was living in South Korea seven years ago. I was drawn to the practice out of curiosity. My understanding was that it was something that could help me get centered. I didn’t quite know what that would feel like, but I thought it was something that would be good for me, teach me how to meditate, and achieve a sense of peace. The class was held in a gym, and not a single staff member spoke English (and my Korean language skills were equivalent to a five year old’s at best), but somehow I negotiated my way into a class, and I never looked back. I was hooked from day one.
Fast forward five years. I completed a yoga teacher training program to deepen my practice and education. While the experience was enjoyable (learning Sanskrit is fun!) and informative (the mythology of yoga is captivating), I am clear that I am still learning yoga. I still feel like a beginner. I see myself as more of a yoga student than a teacher. And for me, that is what yoga is: being a lifelong student, open and committed to evolving. I would like to share some of what I have learned so far, and no, this is not going to involve me telling you how to do a complicated pose or how to breathe. (But if we’re talking asanas, dancer’s pose [Sanskrit: Natarajasana] is my favorite!)
For me, yoga is about letting go. It teaches us to allow ourselves to just be – to be where you are. If your heels do not touch the mat in downward facing dog, then just let them be. Don’t force them. If you are struggling to balance your body weight on your arms in crow pose, then be with the struggle. Being with the struggle is part of the practice. You are where you need to be. Surrender. The pose will come when you are ready.
Just as we learn to accept where we are in our own physical yoga practice, but we do so with the spiritual practice, too. Letting go of your ego. Letting go of your expectations. Surrendering. Isn’t it interesting that tomorrow is not promised to anyone, yet we try so hard to hold on to so much. We try to control what’s coming next. We grasp, we hoard, we grip so tightly – kicking and screaming all the while – because we are so afraid of the unknown. Yet controlling the future sin’t possible. Does it really serve you to fight for control?
Letting go is a lesson we can apply off the mat in our daily lives. We can practice this in small ways. For example, imagine you’re stuck in crazy rush hour traffic with only 5 minutes to get to your next appointment, yet you’re only moving at 3 miles an hour. Is getting frustrated and frazzled while shouting and screaming at everyone and everything going to get you there any faster? Notice how you feel when you are fuming in your car that is barely moving. Does your angst really move your car any faster? Does it get rid of the sea of cars around you? Is the traffic congestion in your control? The fact is you will get to your destination when you get there; exactly when you get there is beyond your control.
Let’s look at bigger picture life issues. You might not like where you are in life – in your career, in your relationship, etc. You are just not where you thought you would be at this point. Maybe you find yourself wanting to escape for something you perceive to be better. Yoga suggests that comfort is found in realizing that you are on a path that will take you where you need to be. Letting go of achieving the perfect yoga pose allows you to accept where you are in your physical practice and improve through practicing. So letting go of where you thought you’d be by now and accepting where you actually are in your life moves you closer to changing the things that you don’t like and improving your situation. When we do not want to accept where we are, we often fall into negative thoughts that keep us stuck: I’m not good enough, I ‘m not worthy, I’m unlovable. Or we look for ways to escape that are unhealthy and self-destructive: gossiping about others who seem to be worse off than us, drinking too much, spending impulsively and excessively, or comparing ourselves to other people. Do any of these thoughts or behaviors ever result in greater life satisfaction or fulfillment? Trying to escape or judging yourself only magnifies the pain that you are in and keeps you stuck in the very place that you do not want to be. Where you are now is just part of the process of propelling you into the next big beautiful chapter in your story. It will come. Just like letting the feet come off the floor in crow pose teaches us, letting go translates to trusting the process.
This is just a glimpse of what yoga means to me. It may mean something different for you. I choose it because I sometimes need a reminder that where I am is where I need to be. And I find that it helps to soften life’s challenges and the fear of the unknown. It has gifted me with one of the greatest lessons in life: there is very little that we can control. The more we try to control, the harder life becomes. Coming to terms with our lack of control is the key. While letting go is a constant practice and takes courage, each time I step onto my mat I learn more about the art of surrender.
~ Andrea Gargano, LCPC, RYT