My all-time favorite teaching in my years of yoga practice has been learning to relax within a challenging pose.
Learning to breathe into the periphery and experience rest within moments of extreme intensity has been a lesson that has carried over into all aspects of my life. While enjoying some moments of extreme bliss—and shaking quads—in the wooded glades of the outback at Keystone in Colorado last Monday, I fell into this yogic head space.
I practiced my favorite teaching and relaxed into the moments that were physically strenuous.
Upon later reflection, I realized tree skiing head space and yoga head space are really the same thing. Here’s why:
Duh. For something that is innate, it sure is easy to stop breathing. Focusing on the breath takes my mind off other bullshit happening in my head (i.e. I should lose five pounds because I can feel my stomach in this shirt; I wonder where that girl bought her pants; what am I going to have for lunch?)
Leave my ego in the car.
I’m a competitive person by nature. I thrive off other’s success and grow by trying to do better. Some call it a defect. In both yoga and skiing, I agree, it is.
Don’t drink a gallon of water first.
Taking off ski pants and walking around in ski boots sucks. Leaving in the middle of a yoga class to pee also sucks.
But do drink some water.
Being dehydrated, and possibly passing out, sucks more.
Let go of my old ballet (or your previously rigid) form.
If my knees and hips aren’t loose and relaxed, everything becomes more difficult.
If the hope is not to get hurt, listen to my body.
This seems obvious. Unfortunately for me, it isn’t. My knees will tell me to back off, or take a break and my mind looks at it as weakness. If I want to enjoy either of these beautiful practices, I need to listen to my body.
I could actually die.
When I stop experiencing presence, and start experiencing the chatter of my mind, I might actually die. Granted, it’s unlikely that I’ll die in pincha mayurasana, but if I start thinking about my taxes or whether I locked my car, it’s a possibility. And in reality, if I’m not present with the pose, I’m not really practicing yoga, which I consider a mild version of a spiritual death. If I start thinking about my taxes while shooting through the trees on skis, I run a high risk of actually dying.
Magic exists in silence.
I love a power vinyasa class with the music cranked up just as much as the next yogi and shredding my face off listening to Phoenix is seriously kickass. But I experience the true beauty of stillness in silence. Stopping on the slopes to just listen to the exquisite quiet of the woods—the kind of silence you experience in the middle of a snowstorm—brings me in touch with the energy of nature and the universe. Similarly, pausing to hear my breath, or more subtly, my heartbeat, brings me into touch with the energy of universal consciousness which exists in my very self. Thank you Simon and Garfunkel.
Vriksasana, or tree pose, is all about balance.
This one doesn’t need much explanation. You fall out of tree pose in class if your balance is off. You hit a tree with your body on skis if your balance is off. Practice balance.
They both rule.
If you don’t currently practice yoga, or skiing, you should probably start.
is a snow-shredding, bacon-loving yogi who has an uncontrollable wanderlust. For the last five years, meditation has been the foundation of her spiritual and emotional expansion. When she is not pretending to have a gluten intolerance (depending on what she wants to eat that day) she is watching cat videos, pumping iron or drinking coffee. Connect with her on twitter, facebook, pinterest or check out her website.
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Ed: Brianna Bemel
Asst. Ed: Amy Cushing