Sandy's Yoga Blog

The Art of Surrender -- On and Off the Mat

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.

"My Stroke of Insight"

I just finished reading "My Stroke of Insight," by Jill Bolte Taylor. Taylor is a brain scientist who had a stroke at the age of 37 and lost the use of the left side of her brain. While she did eventually make a full recovery, her detailed account of the stroke and the science of how the brain works makes very compelling reading. 

As a yogi, I find this story especially interesting because when she lost the use of the left hemisphere of her brain, she became peaceful, blissful, realized her connection to all other living things, realized herself as an energy body, and felt at one with everything. In other words, she was in the altered state that we can get to through our yoga and meditation practices. Once recovered, she learned how to "step to the right" to leave the chatter and criticism of the left brain behind to go to the realm of peace and love in the right brain. 

For those who prefer a scientific explanation of what I'm always talking about in yoga, this book is for you. It's also a good book for anyone who has a loved one who had a stroke, and for any yogi.

Yoga and Menstruation

Westerners are taught not to let anything slow us down or get in our way. So when it comes to monthly periods, most women try to proceed with full schedules and loads of activities as though nothing were happening. 

But in India, this time of the month is sacred because it represents a woman's special relationship with the powerful cycles of the moon. The science of Ayurveda teaches us that if we respect our body's cleansing cycle and act according to our body's needs, we will have fewer related physical and emotional problems. In fact, the female disorders that are rampant in the West are reported to be very rare in India. Here are some Ayurvedic tips that may help you to be more comfortable and emotionally content during this time:

- Practice gentle yoga to reduce stress, oxygenate the body, release endorphins (mood elevators), and promote relaxation -- leave the vigorous pratice for another time. If tired, do a restorative routine or simply practice breathing and meditation. Do not practice inversions such as headstand and shoulderstand, as they interfere with the body's focus on downward flow and elimination. 


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