There are a few catch phrases that I seem to use over and over again in my classes, and one of them is "surrender into the pose." In the Washington, D.C., area, surrender isn't a popular word. In general, people here are competitive and used to fighting their way through life. To many, surrender means giving up, rolling over, and letting the other guy win. But there's another way to think of it: Surrender doesn't mean giving up. It means accepting the situation and relaxing into it.
Say you have tight hips and your teacher leads you into Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana, the Pigeon Pose. Your senses are flooded with sensation because you're stretching muscles that are very tight and stiff. You don't want to feel those sensations, so you fight it. You clench your legs and hips in an effort not to feel. You hold the breath. Or you hear the teacher telling you to relax around the hips, so you clench your fists and tighten your brow and jaw instead. You're fighting the pose and inhibiting your body's ability to relax and open to the stretch. Your mind may be spinning around in a panic. But if you surrender -- if you accept the fact that this feels really intense but you are willing to be with it for a few moments and breathe into it -- something amazing happens. The body and mind relax. You let go of the clenching, the holding, the fighting and a softness washes over you. The muscles can actually start to relax. Stay with it for a while and you'll feel your body opening up in new places. The mind will settle down. If you keep up your practice you will find more space, more freedom in the body. You'll move differently ... you'll feel better.