Effort and Ease

IMG_3108I've struggled to put up a post the past few weeks. when I had the words at my fingertips, I picked up a book instead of my keyboard. I lost what I wanted to say. I waited, and waited and waited...for all the thoughts in my head to form into something profound, for the perfect moment to sit down and write, for the stars to align. Maybe someday that post will make its way here, but today i was inspired by the mild day, mellow sunlight and dwindling darkness to invite a little ease into my life. I had a lot of expectations for January. I planned to dive right back into my pre-holiday schedule with renewed commitment and focus. and then I caught a bad cold and was forced to take it slow for a couple of weeks. As I healed, I realized something pretty obvious (but somehow had escaped my conscious awareness), that January is just as dark as December and all I wanted to do was hibernate. I have the luxury in my life right now of setting a schedule that is aligned with the rhythm of the seasons and I've noticed the changing ratios of darkness and the light affect me more. So, I set aside my big plans and let myself be. Last week I felt like I was ready to try again. We're still in winter, but I feel the promise of spring. The days are a little longer now, there's a bit of freshness in the air.

This morning I returned to one of my favorite practices - 90 minutes of pranayama, meditation and Sutras study with Jo Leffingwell. Two of my teachers have studied with her and I am quite humbled and honored to learn from Jo myself. As we sat today, I remembered something she gave voice to in a previous practice - referring to the exhale as "releasing the breath." Over and over today I cycled through "inhale and release, inhale and release." Eventually this gave way to a sense that the expectations of thinking mind could surrender, dissolve, and blend into a hopefulness of the heart. For me, hope is a little more gentle, it carries a sense of ease that is missing from expectation.

The beginning of February seems like a good time to refresh. Perhaps you set a New Year's resolution that you've stuck to doggedly. Inhale and release...soften your goal into a hopeful intention. Maybe January came and went and you never really found your sense of direction for the year ahead, or you made a resolution and forgot it. Take five minutes to sit in quiet, observe your breath, release any lingering frustration and find a little lift with the inhale. See if you can taste the coming spring. Discover that sweet spot between effort and ease. This is the practice of yoga.

(Yoga Sutra 2.46 | sthira sukham asanam - asana must have the dual qualities of alertness and relaxation)