Take Your Practice Out of Your Comfort Zone This Summer
Summer. It’s that time of year when rules and dress codes relax. Even decades beyond school age, we feel as though the disciplinarians that normally keep us in line are looking the other way for a few months. As adults, we are often kept on that well-worn, responsible path by our own inner voice—its timbre a collection of tones and inflections collected over our lifetime. Some kind and loving. Some not so much.
This season offers you the opportunity to give your unhelpful inner teachers a well-deserved vacation. Bid them good-bye, and take your practice in a new direction. If your inner teachers are telling you that you aren’t strong enough, prove them wrong by practicing a strengthening pose every single day. Flip up into handstand and watch them gape, amazed. After three months of this, you will be strong.
Does one of those teachers tell you that your never be a back-bender and you better stick to your forward-bending forte? I have one who says that. Find a backbend—starting as gently and propped as needed—and prove to yourself that you can open your heart without sending yourself spiraling out of control.
Pick a pose that bothers you and explore why that might be. You just might discover something about your inner self that is being reflected back at you through your physical body.
This summer, stop internalizing the world around you. Spend some time in the yogic niyama of self-study (svadhyaya). In my book, Sophia Rising: Awakening Your Sacred Wisdom Through Yoga, I describe it like this:
“Leave behind the belief that to study means to seek external knowledge and claim it for our own. Limiting the search for truth to outside sources—books, the Internet, sermons, lectures, others’ opinions—can be dangerous territory. The most important study we can ever do is internal. It is also precisely the work that we often try to avoid. It is so much easier to absorb from the environment than to explore the landscape of the soul.”
Christians contemplatives will find this idea congruous with Thomas Merton’s translation of Moses’ mandate to “go sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything.”
This summer, become an explorer of your own soul’s landscape. Meander, and push your edge. Strive for new heights, then honor your discoveries with some restorative poses. Find out what you’ve been avoiding, and find the strength to face it. That work will remain with you long after the lazy days of summer have given way to the dictates of the rest of the year. And you might even find that some of those inner teachers softened their criticism over the summer break!
In addition to serving as the feature writer for the Texas Yoga Association’s newsletter, Monette Chilson is long-time yoga practitioner whose writing has appeared in Yoga Journal, Integral Yoga Magazine, Christian Yoga Magazine and Om Times. Her first book, Sophia Rising: Awakening Your Sacred Wisdom Through Yoga, was released this month by Bright Sky Press and is available at all online book retailers. She blogs at www.SophiaRisingYoga.com.