by Lisa Stowe
As New Yorkers, we meet people all the time – at the workplace, at a bar, as the ubiquitous “friend of a friend.” If we are lucky, we develop connections at a deeper level than simply an annual “Happy Birthday” on Facebook. And if we are really lucky, these connections make it beyond the initial stages of the relationship and affect our lives in meaningful ways.
The development of connections is a key component of our yoga practice. We are always looking to connect breath to movement, body to mind, muscle to bone. Building and maintaining physical connections is hard but rewarding work. Long plank holds contribute to a gentle lift upwards into crow as we strengthen the transverse abdominus. Getting to know our serratus anterior supports our shoulders both in life and in handstand. Sometimes connections can be harder to build when they come easily, as it can be more challenging to draw into the midline in pigeon if you have very open hips.
At the same time, muscling through the physical practice is not the yogic path either. While we look to build connections in our physical bodies, we are also aware of our own boundaries and limits. This requires a great amount of courage and honesty, as well as the willingness to step aside from our egos as we take a restorative pose instead of an active inversion.
How do we take these lessons off the mat? Even as we acknowledge the benefit of releasing tension in our IT bands, we often resist similar attention to underlying dynamics of our relationships. In the physical practice, we are often willing to step back from a pose in the understanding that it is not accessible for us. Yet often in our personal life, we push forward with connections that may be best viewed as non-accessible. While we recognize that poses can be “lost”, requiring mindfulness and attention to relearn the asana, we are often unable to harness this mindfulness and devote the same attention to our relationships.
The next time I find a connection moving beyond “Happy Birthday Facebook friend” territory or am tempted to declare that “I’m done” with a relationship, hopefully I’ll remember to approach the situation with the same care and mindfulness that I apply when I roll out my brightly colored yoga mat.
Lisa Stowe is a yogi, economist and mom who is as graceful with her arm balances as she is balancing budgets and juggling two young children. We’re thrilled that she’ll be writing the PRACTICE MAKES PRACTICE column while Sandra Bark is traveling for work.