October is a month of transition. Summer is over, and fall is just beginning to creep in. It’s a transition here, too, as I have spent the last 6 weeks closing down a massage practice in Raleigh, and preparing to open a yoga & massage studio in Hillsborough. Transitions are times of changes, of unknowns, times when we get to test the skills we’ve learned in life, and the strength of the practices that ground us.
Transitions are also periods of great opportunity – times when what has been routine becomes shaken enough that new intentions can be planted and nurtured without as much friction as often exists when we are just happily rolling along doing what we always do. So navigating transition skillfully – staying grounded, but using potential arising through change – requires balance, allowing ourselves to release what needs to change, to receive what is being given, and to stay in tune with who we are and how we want to live in the present.
Physically, balance comes from the core, and not just the small set of muscles in the lower abdomen. In asana, you might be cued to draw your energy towards your midline, to contract the legs towards each other or the shoulders into their sockets. This drawing in creates stability and ease in the body, from which you can then expand through the arms and legs and even torso. Steadiness and ease.
sthira sukham asanam (Patanjali’s) Yoga Sutra 2.46
When the body become stable enough, it can actually find rest even in a challenging pose. The steadiness comes from muscle strength and energy, the ease comes from having enough of it and knowing how to use it properly. Very much like knowing how to stay grounded but flexible in transition.
One of my favorite translations of this same sutra is:
“The connection to the earth should be joyful and steady.”
(I have long since lost track of which translation this is – I am sorry!) I love this translation because it speaks toward not just the asana practice, but the other practices of yoga as well. My connection to the earth includes how I mentally and physically engage with myself, with others, and with the world around me. Even in the midst of great transition, can I remain joyful and steady?
Is my practice strong enough?
For me, the honest answer is: not quite. At various times I’ve lost sense of both the joy I have in seeing my intentions become manifest, and the steadiness I feel about doing this work. The ease that comes from a deep sense of knowing that I am doing what is right for me and for now has been shaken routinely, as I question everything in response to other people’s advice and inquiries and ideas – I have to really remind myself (and sometimes others have had to remind me) to draw in, to bring my focus back to what is in my heart and my gut, my energetic midline. Because when I forget to do this, I lose my authenticity, and subsequently my joy.
It’s a constant adjustment, back to center. That’s why it’s called a practice! I look forward to meeting you on the mat, as we explore steadiness and ease and balance this month!