September 21, 2010

Can We Ever Truly Accept Our Impermanence? ~Sara Ivanhoe

Connecting the cycle of life to our yoga practice.

A favorite autumn pastime is watching the “changing of the leaves.”

This beautiful display of impermanence is considered a miracle of nature, an act of god, something we look forward to. We are moved by the journey of the leaf; from birth, to maturity, to the act of falling and the ultimate completion of the cycle, nourishing the tree that it grew from.

When we observe impermanence in something else, we experience an inner “wow.” But when it comes to ourselves, we fear the unknown. When it comes to change within ourselves, we resist.

We fear change in our bodies, and we fear change during our yoga practice. Once we have worked so hard to master a pose, we want to keep it.  We feel that we’ve earned that pose. As if hard work justifies holding on to it forever, as if a yoga pose is something we could keep, have or maybe even buy?  I have noticed the change in my practice over the years.  I used to pop into advanced arm balances without thinking of how I got there. I would do two, three, sometimes even four yoga classes in a day and put both feet behind my head.

Many years and several injuries later, I’m surprised to find that the yoga I thought I had no longer exists.

I can’t do some of the party tricks I used to do.

I can only manage to squeeze one short practice in a day (and that’s on a good day) and any flexibility I had only becomes apparent after a long warm up.  So what’s a yogi to do?  I could complain about my current state, sing of the glory days of one-armed handstands or, (excuse the pun) be flexible and accept change.

I often find myself telling myself things like “that was a rocking crow pose jump back,” or “my half moon is pretty lame today.”  If this sounds familiar, I encourage you to try to let the mental chatter go. As the “Bhagavad Gita” tells us: Put forth your efforts, but be unattached to the result. Instead of constantly evaluating our pose, move on.

Letting go is itself a practice. Changing the mental pattern of judging yourself will take work, but it is the best kind of work. All of life is impermanent. Our yoga practice is impermanent. All we can do is show up and do our best. When I get good at being in the now with my yoga practice, I hone that skill.

This allows me to be in the now for other important parts of my life. When I’m present, I let go of my personal struggles and I am more able to be of service to others.

Instead of being the bright green leaf, I can enjoy nourishing the tree.

Sara Elizabeth Ivanhoe began teaching yoga in 1995 while receiving her BFA from New York University. She holds a Yoga Philosophy degree from Loyola Marymount University as well as their Yoga and Ecology degree completed in accordance with the Green Yoga Association.   She has completed teacher trainings with Erich Schiffmann, Yoga Works and John Friend in the Anusara tradition.

Sara is the instructor for the “Yoga for Dummies” series, the “Crunch Yoga” series as well as the collaboration with Russell Simmons “Yoga Live,” altogether selling 4.3 million units worldwide. She is currently on Fit TV’s “All Star Workouts” and her self-produced “Yoga on the Edge” runs on Exercise TV.  Sara has been a regular on Vh1’s “Dr. Drew’s Celebrity Rehab” and is featured as one of the “Titans of Yoga” in the new, critically-acclaimed documentary.

Learn more about Sara at her website.

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