30 Days of “A Year of Living Your Yoga” — Day 5: Choice and Freedom


Welcome to Day 5 of my still-new blog series. This series is based on Judith Hansen-Lasater’s “A Year of Living Your Yoga.” While the book has 365 quotes, I picked only 30.

I chose the dates in the waiting room of my kids’ dentist. I rolled dice and arbitrarily chose dates based on the numbers that showed up with each roll of the dice.

I also had the pleasure of sitting with a Turkish grandmother who didn’t speak any English. We managed to communicate in a female, maternal way that transcended any real words. I used a “bee buzz” sound to describe my middle son, a steady hand / ocean wave motion to describe my youngest and oldest sons and then we “spoke” effusively about the World Cup. “Keeek! Keeek ball! Futbol!”

I will try to keep these posts to less than 500 words. (These words don’t count — ha ha, nor does the quote.)

Here is the quote:

April 3 — Choice gives us freedom; freedom allows for choice. Thinking that there is only one way to solve any problem limits the outcome. Today, approach a difficult asana (pose) with an attitude of freedom; choose another way to try it.

First, let’s replace “asana” with “situation” because maybe not everyone reading this is into yoga, but we all have “situations.”

We all have situations that challenge us. Sometimes these situations are with people, sometimes they are with ourselves, in fact, if we take a step back, we can usually see that most “situations” can be addressed by looking inward at ourselves and any expectations or preferences / attachments we might have regarding the situation. Once we identify those expectations or attachments, we can gain better perspective on how to manage the situation. Maybe all we have to do is soften our tone? Maybe all we have to do is put the shoes on our feet? Maybe all we have to do is get our ego out of it. These are all choices and they provide freedom from the situation, don’t they? And once we have that freedom, we can choose what to do next.

But what about when we think we’ve chosen a way that gives freedom, but we find we’re still stuck? As though the choice simply revealed that we have no choice. Then we need to choose a different approach.

When it comes to asana (yoga poses) people like to do the ideal, right away. They don’t want to choose a simpler way. They don’t automatically choose a modification. I’ve been there. And ultimately, they get stuck. Their hips stick, the neck won’t move, the foot cramps up.

For many people new to yoga, sitting with legs crossed could be a challenge due to tight hips; these people are used to sitting at desk or driving a car or pushing a stroller. But as teachers, we learn open their minds to choices that will allow more freedom without feeling as though they’re not doing “the pose.” It’s all about helping people help themselves to choice. To accommodate and encourage our students to allow for limitations instead of pushing through that “newness” and pretending there’s no pain, we have props. We can roll up a blanket beneath each knee, or suggest a seat on a block.

me. about four years ago.

me doing uttitha trikonasana about four years ago. (photo: nicolle boswell)

When we propose uttitha trikonasana (extended triangle pose, above) many people at first can’t reach anywhere near the floor. To help them along, we use blocks near the ankle or verbally suggest the lower hand rest on the shin. If the upper shoulder hurts, leave the upper hand on the hip. My teacher often says that the high hand up is the “tah-dah!” or “the cherry on top” of the pose; she reminds us that a hand on the hip still conveys the benefits of the pose.

Trikonasana is really about balance, opening the forward leg’s hamstring, strengthening the back leg and lower shoulder, and twisting open the torso. So as long as the side body is opening up, that hand needn’t go up. More cherry on top? Looking at the upper hand. Sometimes our necks just aren’t in the mood. Sometimes we are afraid — the balance isn’t there, something’s bothering you internally, don’t push through it! The whole point of yoga (life) is self discovery and listening to our bodies and any internal messages. To this day, I can’t get myself to look up all the way in half-moon pose on the right side. I’m close, but I’m not there yet.

But some students are stubborn. They ignore the signals. They push through. They get hurt. A great yoga students is one who’s free to choosing anything — and that means using props: a chair, a block, a wall, a strap, a modification, or just saying, “I am not there — yet…” because then we have a baseline.

So choose another way through a situation or a pose, allow yourself the freedom to use a wall, a block or to simply walk away.

Thank you.

ps — are you enjoying this series? it’s been fun for me. tell me what you think!


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