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King Crankypants needs to relax!

Yoga starts from the heart, spreads through your whole body, then to your loved ones, then to the whole world.
~Mark Whitwell

I don’t enjoy writing posts like my last one. Really. But sometimes I feel like they’re necessary.

I just read the above quote from the delightful Mark Whitwell and I realised that pretty much everything comes down to the heart – crappy Funny or Die videos don’t come from the heart. Those who actually think those crappy videos are funny? That sense of humour is not heart-centred. Being abusive towards someone who makes a stand and says what they think, is also not heart-centred behaviour. Getting stroppy with perpetrators of said abusive behaviour? Nope, not quite heart-centred either.

Increasingly, I know that what I want for myself is a completely from-the-heart life. Where everything I do, every action I take and every word that comes out of my mouth is coming from the heart. That DOES NOT mean that everything will always all sunshine and puppy dogs. I’ll still have healthy boundaries, be ferocious when required, and speak out about stuff I think of as wrong. But maybe not quite in the same way.

All of this is challenging for me as a vira/fire personality type. Like many people, anger has been the default response to things I don’t like for most of my life. I’ve done a fantastic job thus far at tempering that fire but there’s more to do. I mean heck, getting an autoimmune disorder is a clear sign there’s too much fire and inflammation in my system, right?

As such, I get the point of doing things like having a negative media fast. Still, I’ve got the heart of a protester and I aint afraid to call it like I see it when needed.

But reading quotes like Mark’s help me to remember to keep a balance. I reckon it’s okay to be angry about something when it’s needed. But letting go is important, too.

So as always, it’s back to practicing yoga for me

The best things I learn from my yoga practice aren’t about how to work my way into a more advanced version of some asana or other. Don’t get me wrong – that’s lots of fun but it’s not what keeps me coming back.

What I value most are the moments of inspiration in how I deal with myself, my body/mind and/or with other people.

Monday was day one of a new term – the second for me at this yoga school – and the bearer of new realisations, too.

Given that I spent most of the winter term rather unwell (with Hashimoto’s) and injured (torn right calf muscle), I was surprised last week to discover that despite all of this and despite doing a very basic kind of practice for the last couple of months, I’ve gained strength. It’s pretty amazing actually – every inversion I do feels stronger, more balanced and stable. Every balance is steadier.

In other words, a gentle and steady practice caused an increase in strength.

So I was excited to come back to day one of classes for the term, now that my energy levels have lifted a little and that after two long months, and I’m no longer limping.

One of the themes of Monday night’s class was the difference between tension and relaxation.

Without meaning to, I found myself sharing this:

What I learned from last term’s classes is that even when we think we’re relaxed, we can still be holding a lot of tension. It wasn’t until my teacher suggested a slightly different arm or leg position, that I noticed my previous one wasn’t exactly comfortable. We just sort of get used to holding our tension, to the point that we simply don’t feel it until someone shows us an easier way.

This is actually true for many things – yoga, our lives, or looking at our own behaviours and actions. We sometimes don’t see our own tensions, or limitations. We don’t get the easier way until someone else reflects it back for us.

Then we have a choice – we can keep doing what we were doing all along, and possibly do ourselves an injury in the process. Our rigidity might even hurt someone else. Or we can adapt to another way of being that flows better and requires less energy to maintain.

It’s up to us, isn’t it?

Like most westerners who spend too much time n front of a computer, I hold a lot of tension in my shoulders. So in my practice I have to constantly find ways to soften and release through my shoulders and upper back. I’ve also been learning the difference a 10 degree angle can make in the positioning of my arms over my head. If one position jams my neck, why do I persist in holding my arms up higher when I don’t have to?

Soften. Relax. Surrender.

Until we learn to treat ourselves this way, it’s impossible to show others kindness as a day-to-day 24/7 way of being. We need to let go of our anger and frustration (they’re actually the same thing) and soften the way we treat ourselves, first. Then, we can expand that out to others.

This is yoga, and this is life.

Here’s to keeping our hridaya (heart) centre in mind as we practice and move through our days.

It’s a process I’m in. What about you?

~ Svasti

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