Tip Tuesday is a weekly feature where I offer a few yoga tips that have worked for me in the hopes that they can help you too.
How do you find delight in yoga? I’m not talking about mild enjoyment, “Sure, that’s a nice stretch. Yes, my body feels less tight.” I’m talking joy, excitement, and aliveness surging through you.
Finding delight in yoga is a theme we frequently explore in Forrest Yoga classes. At first, delight might seem elusive, especially when you’re in the middle of a touch sequence of abs or holding bridge pose for what feels like an endless amount of time. In fact, suffering might seem more like it. So where do you even begin cultivating delight in your practice?
It helps me as I’m starting my practice to close my eyes, breathe, and reflect on what brings me joy. It might be a person or a particular place or maybe just a time in my life where I felt an overflowing sense of happiness. For me, this might be: visualizing my good friends, the high I felt after skydiving for the first time, sunbathing, or the warmth of my kitties sitting on my lap. You’ll have your own joys to draw upon.
As you connect to this joy, get a visceral sense of what it feels like in your body. I notice my body brightens up, I get a little smile on my face, and my shoulders feel lighter. Feel what’s true for you and breathe in this experience of joy.
Now comes the trickier part–keeping this feeling of joy as you go through the yoga practice. Sometimes this is easy. Hitting child’s pose after holding onto dolphin pose for a long time feels like a glorious rest! However, when it comes to a particularly challenging or dreaded pose, our first instinct is to often go into survival mode: I’ll just hold on in the pose, hate every second of it, and hope that the end will come soon.
Instead, what can you find to like about a pose? Now I used to really hate abs, especially elbow to knee pose. My abs weren’t all the strong, I had a hard time getting the breathing right with the movements, and we seemed to move agonizingly slow. I gritted my teeth and looked forward to the moment where we could release the pose. So I tried to think of how I could find something to like about abs instead of being miserable (after all, there’s always abs in Forrest Yoga, so might as well start finding enjoyment in them). I observed that elbow to knee gave me more energy in my core and I felt more awake (even if my abs were sore). Even if I disparaged myself for not getting the pose right, I had to admit I liked the fact elbow to knee forced my brain to be focused. As I continue to practice, I find I begin to appreciate more subtle aspects of the pose such as the opening in my inner legs and release in my hips.
You can of course find delight by doing your favorite poses. What poses get you excited and how do they make you feel in your body? One of my favorites is dolphin strut (video link). It makes me focus on my balance, gives me a terrific hip opening, and juices me up. I love how powerful and non-self-conscious it makes me feel. Consider what poses you love to do and why and then go and do them.
Just like we can develop our proficiency in yoga poses, we can hone the skill of finding delight in the practice. Why settle for just enjoyment? Let’s go after the delight!