Not too long ago, I attended a Power Vinyasa Flow class at Semperviva Yoga Studio that was one of the more physically intense yoga experiences I’ve had. I mentioned to the instructor afterwards that I had found it challenging, and she reflected to me that she usually found classes easier when she was teaching and speculated that maybe it had something to do with higher levels of adrenalin.
I’ve been thinking about this idea in relationship to my own teaching – and to life in general, and I have a different theory. My theory (putting fear of the next step aside) is that everything feels easier when you know what is coming.
Whether flowing through a yoga class, writing an exam or a driving through busy city traffic, if you know what is ahead, where you are going and what is going to be expected of you, it is easier to move forward with confidence and ease. Holding Downward Facing Dog can be much more challenging if you don’t know whether you are going to need more strength for Plank Pose or have an opportunity to rest in Child’s Pose. Knowing the format of an exam gives you the opportunity to guide your studying accordingly and generally decreases your chances of being caught off-guard. And, when you are driving in a familiar city and you know when you need to change lanes, where the one-way streets are, and which routes are usually the fastest, the drive is usually much less stressful.
I often feel like I am surrounded by a frenzy of planning, as people around me try to map out the rest of their lives. Historically, these planning endeavours have confused me. Because life is so unpredictable, I didn’t understand putting so much energy into the process of planning. But in light of this theory that everything feels easier when you know what is coming next, the idea of planning life is starting to make a bit more sense.
My boyfriend lives in an area that can be difficult to park, and sometimes when I am unable to find parking near his place, I get upset. I don’t completely understand why at this point. I’m guessing it has something to do with feeling like I can’t get home, but for this story it only matters that it happens – and that, in recognizing that it happens, I have started preparing myself a few blocks away from his place. I remind myself that I may get upset – that I know what is coming, and some how it is has made my emotions easier to navigate.
For me, this parking experience exemplifies how the practice of yoga – a practice of cultivating mindfulness and awareness – gives us the opportunity to take what we learn about ourselves and prepare ourselves for situations that may trigger or unground us. Through the practice of yoga, we develop an awareness of what may come as we begin to better understand ourselves and how our patterned emotional responses shape our experiences.
And, as a bit of a side note, I wonder (and, perhaps, hope a little bit) if over time the practice can bring enough presence into each moment that we are able to exist in uncertainty with the confidence and ease that seems to come with certainty.