Friday, March 16, 2007

Process not Product

It is important to remember that in yoga, as with pretty much everything else, you should always focus on the journey not the destination. Ours is a very goal-oriented society, with all emphasis placed on the finished product rather than on the work and discovery that happens during its creation; it is very hard to shift focus away from results and concentrate on method. But you should try. Whatever it is that you are involved with will eventually end (the Terrible Twos, winter, grad school, spring cleaning), and it seems a shame to be wishing your life away, rather than learning from (dare I say enjoying?) the process.

Now, I’m a lot better at dispensing this advice than following it—so maybe we should practice “being in the moment” in a yoga pose. You can apply this skill to the Big Picture later, once your Triangle/Warrior II/Dog is perfectly observed.

Pick a favorite, but challenging, standing pose—one that improves as you hold it for awhile. Obvious candidates are: Adho Mukha Svanasana (Down Dog), Trikonasana (Triangle), Virabhadrasana I or II (Warrior I or II), or Parsvakonasana (Lateral Angle). Come into the pose in stages and notice what part of the body is doing the most work in each stage—grounding evenly through all parts of the foot, squaring the hips, elongating the spine, keeping the shoulder blades down, lengthening the neck—and take a few breaths at each stage so you are fitting the pieces of the pose together like a puzzle.

Once you are in the pose, keep checking in with these key areas. Can you deepen the work in a specific area with an exhale? How does that deepening affect the next area? Keep repeating the cycle and checking in every few breaths, but allowing yourself time to be still in the pose, too. If you start to get tired, see if concentrating on just your breath allows you more time in the position. When you are ready to come out, do it slowly, area by area, so the body unfolds from the pose rather than snapping (or sagging) to attention. Come into a relaxation pose (Balasana-Childs’, Tadasana-Mountain, Sukhasana-Easy) and observe the after-effects of the longer pose.

Obviously the interesting part of this exercise is not coming into the relaxation pose, or even coming out of the more difficult standing pose. See if you can recreate the feeling of discovery and opening that you noticed during this practice in the task that plagues you in your “real” life. It will be a lot harder than balancing your foot or aligning your tailbone, of course, but maybe this awareness will keep you engaged in the process.

I can’t guarantee that this will make tax preparation any more enjoyable, but I’ll bet you will find something interesting and new about how your garden wakes as the snow melts or how you perceive your professional achievements during a job search. Worse comes to worst, you can always just fling yourself back into Dog Pose and enjoy a nice, long stretch—you know that process will make you happy. ©Brenda K. Plakans. All Rights Reserved.


Nadine Fawell said...

So true, Brenda! It's all about how we get where we are going. Not how soon!

Brenda P. said...

Thanks Nadine! P.S. I really like your blog and the info you provide...I've added it as a link.