30 Days of “A Year of Living Your Yoga” — Day 10: Insecurity & Control


Welcome to Day 10 of my 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 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:

February 23 — Insecurity leads to more attempts to control. We feel insecure when we forget our connection to ourselves. Then we feel afraid and try to control everything around us. Instead, spend five minutes today sitting quietly, focusing on elongating your exhalation; it is the breath of letting go.

Then spend the rest of your life getting with the program. Because that is the art of living: letting shit go.

One of my favorite breathing exercises in yoga is to breathe in for a count of five and then gradually extend exhale after the first breath, to a count of 12. It’s the same amount of breath coming in and going out, every time (well, actually it might be more as time elapses because the lungs adapt and stretch) but you are never releasing more air than you took in on the inhale.

When we deepen and extend the breaths, we are activating what’s known as the “parasympathetic nervous response” which is better known as “freak-out / stress” breaths, but it’s really the extended exhale that does it. I believe I’ve mentioned this before: cigarette smokers have that breath DOWN PAT. Just take away the cancer stick and they’d be good to go.

(My apologies to any smokers out there, I realize it’s an addiction; I also realize that you need to stop smoking.)

I don’t think I was ever really a “control freak.” I know that when I was younger, I wanted what was best for my mother, and that was usually at odds with what she wanted for herself, but I never organically controlled things. I remember throwing out her cigarettes and other things she occupied her time with that resulted in moments which scared me, so yes, I was afraid and tried to control things (1 point to Lasater); but as I grew up and matured, I have never attempted to influence an outcome after I realized it had zero to do with me.

That’s hard: focusing on yourself when you know you don’t want to. When you’d rather point the finger at other people whom you believe are acting like jerks.

When I was in PTA, I had to let just about everything go (which wasn’t hard) because I knew what I was good at and what I wasn’t good at. If stuff didn’t get done, the world wasn’t going to end. Letting things go also enabled me to see where others simply couldn’t and that taught me that when crap hit the fan with those people that it had nothing to do with me. Their white-knuckled grips on whatever was sifting through their hands was all they thought they had; it was their only stroke of relevance in the world and it wasn’t until I opened up my eyes and saw that life is so much grander and bigger than the things we “do” that I was freed.

One of the meditations I like to do with students at the end of a vigorous class is the “squeeze it all out and then let it all go” release: sit or lie back and think of everything that gets under your skin: global warming, famine, Justin Bieber, addiction, corruption, open carry, American Idol, traffic, barking dogs, laundry, Sarah Palin, feeling unseen and unheard, cancer … breathe, inhale again and tighten your fists, legs, butt, face, jaw, gut, back, thighs, toes, eyes… all of you and again, breathe…. and THEN: exhale and release it all and let it go.

So yeah, let it go. I encourage you to sit five minutes today thinking about something you absolutely can’t control. Go on, find a nice comfy chair and set a kitchen timer for five minutes. Then sit in the chair, take a big breath, let out the breath and sit there and realize that LGO (life goes on) with and without you.

Thank you.

2 responses »

  1. I have a family member that uses the clock to control things. I mean, to the point that if you are out to dinner with her and the time she has allotted for dinner is up, she’ll get up in the middle of dinner and leave or stress and fume and drive everyone else crazy demanding they hurry up because it is time to leave. She has herself on an impossible schedule. I learned a lot about how I didn’t want to live from watching her. Trying to control everything is really stressful and exhausting because so little ever goes perfectly as planned. Of course, some people complain that I go too far the other way and let things slide too much so maybe there is some middle balance to be achieved.

    Nothing helps like those deep breaths and deep exhales. If only it were acceptable to behave like a smoker without being one. If you could take that deep breath and moment to think before you had to speak or to have that interlude to yourself. Maybe we can start a new trend in breathing breaks?

    • wow — getting up in the middle of dinner is certainly a committed controller. i had a friend i travelled with who insisted we get up at dawn no matter where we were and if we traveled west, to where there was more time, then then we needed to wake up at our local native time. i couldn’t do it with much joy,

      i tend to live on the other side of the spectrum too, but more maybe in the middle.

      i do the breathing now. i catch myself doing it. pretending i’m taking a drag and letting it out slowly. it’s like the best feeling. and knowing you / one doesn’t have to reply verbally to anything really, even in an emergency situation (almost especially in one of those), it’s very liberating. and at times, maybe deflating: we’re not as “essential” as we’d like to think we are. i sometimes feel “left out” when decisions are made without me, and then other times i’m really delighted! 🙂

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