Transforming our Journey through New Experiences in Yoga

journey_of_the_self_2048x2048Have you ever been to a dinner party where you didn’t quite know everyone and were looking for every excuse to leave, but had to endure the evening of artificial conversation anyway? Or have you been in a relationship with someone who was toxic and you had to figure out how to distance yourself seeking self-preservation and protection for your own good but in a loving way? Maybe you work in a fast paced job and are changing gears on the fly, constantly having to tap dance in front of customers about why your product was shipped late or didn’t perform the way you promised.

These moments can be awkward and stressful. Learning to navigate through them can be quite a challenge. They demand creativity, forethought, good judgment, compassion, love, steadiness and mindfulness. Once you’re on the other side, you’ve learned something new. You’ve grown. And if faced with this same situation again, you are better equipped to navigate them.

In yoga, we face the same obstacles by connecting poses and moving the body from one asana to the next. Some are easier to accomplish like the transition from Warrior I to Warrior II. But have you ever tried moving from Triangle to Half Moon? It’s hard! When we link unexpected poses together, we create new experiences that may seem unfamiliar. We enter this unchartered territory with imbalance and uncertainty, uncovering new things about ourselves in the process.

Recently, I have been fascinated by creatively connecting poses. Through this exploration I have had to get better acquainted with articulating weight distribution and maneuvering center of gravity changes. It’s a balancing act, a mental workout, a reminder that as much as I think I’ve mastered something, the slightest change can take me back to beginner’s mind in seconds. I’ve come face to face with new difficulty, and I am learning to gracefully navigate the path. Unlike the awkward moments I mentioned above, these are more enjoyable because they take me to a new place where it’s just me figuring out me. It’s rewarding to see improvements.

In the process, I have realized that these creative connections are building my mental reflex, making me more adept at navigating all situations, not just asana practice. Through yoga, we can improve our lives by leveraging the brain’s neuroplasticity, that is the ability to change neural pathways and synapses by changing our behavior and engaging in new experiences. Through consistent and repeated practice, we create new patterns that change the brain thereby reshaping who we are, how we feel about ourselves, how we process our environment and respond to situations. We grow more aware of how our bodies are integrated on all levels.

I invite you to try a new connection that you’ve never considered before. Have you ever tried to move gracefully from Tree to Eagle? After trying a new connected sequence, reflect on how it felt physically and mentally. What can you take away from this experience?

Regardless of whether your connections between asanas are simple or complex, with dedication, yoga has the power to endlessly transform our lives and shape our behavior, giving way to a whole new definition of flexibility, which ironically, is often where the pursuit begins.

Sarah Balmer, BS, Certified Yoga I.S.® RYT-200, Certified Health Coach