Monday, November 8, 2010

Letting Go

A Cottonwood tree in the fall, Albuquerque, Ne...Image via WikipediaI've been thinking about the way trees let go of their leaves in the fall. It's hard not to, since I'm ankle deep in crunchy brown leaves every time I go into the yard. Besides thinking that my kids really ought to start raking, I've been thinking that it would be very hard for people to let go of their leaves.

Of course, people don't have leaves, which is a good thing because I don't think people would trust enough to let them go. Trees take a huge leap of faith every fall, releasing the very thing they've been depending on for energy - I might even say prana - and trusting that they will survive without it until the sun gets warm in spring.

The human animal seems to have lost touch with the natural cycle of things, especially in the United States, and, instead of hoarding just what is needed for the lean winter months like squirrels, hoards everything, as if anything given up is lost forever. When was the last time you got rid of something - clothes, tools, a television - without replacing it with something bigger or better? Could you give your favorite blue sweater to charity and trust that, when the time is right, the universe will make sure you have another blue sweater you will like just as much?

An underlying principle of yoga, one of those things which gets you on the path to enlightenment, is non-attachment, or non-hoarding. Practicing non-attachment means letting go of fears which keep us clinging to stuff. Non-attachment asks us to be like the trees in the fall, and let go.

Not all of the stuff we cling to is physical stuff. We cling to time (just take a look through a beauty magazine and count the anti-aging products), relationships (breaking up is hard to do, after all) and beliefs. On the mat, we cling to asanas.

How do you feel when you can't do your favorite pose because of an injury? How about when you realize that the arthritis in your shoulder means you will never reach your goal of pressing your palms together in Garudasana (eagle pose)? We become attached to the outcome of our practice, whether it be completing all the asanas in the Astanga primary series or touching our toes in every forward fold, and strive for that outcome. The principle of non-attachment asks us to let go of the goals and just be where we are.

This week I've added some new, challenging poses to my yoga class plans. I hope that my students will approach the new asanas with curiousity and a sense of adventure, and without any expectations. Maybe they will all get into the poses, maybe not, but we can have fun trying.

When you get on your mat, can you be like a tree and let go?
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