I’ve practiced and studied yoga consistently for five years and time and time again, I’m taught that the essence of yoga is this simple secret: to let go.
The Buddha even says, “You only lose what you cling to.” So if we never cling, we’ll never lose, but we’ll also never have.
Hmm. This concept never resonated with me in the way that most yogic philosophies do. It felt overly simplified, as though it were only one part of the equation.
I’ve thought about this over and over again, and broken it down to figure it out. What does it mean, “to let go”? To never grow attached? Are we meant to drift through life remaining uncommitted to everything, withdrawn from our experiences, relationships, ourselves?
And then one day I realized the missing piece. In order to let go, we must first hold on. In order to release, we must first grasp. In order to lose, we must first have. Yes, yes, where there is yin, yang must follow.
I disagree with the ubiquitous concept that yoga, at its foundation, is learning how to let go. I think yoga is just as much about learning how to hold on. It’s about learning how to devote oneself to something or someone; to be uninhibitedly absorbed in an experience, remaining fully mindful all the while, but to let it dissolve you.
And when the time comes to let go, to then do so with grace and ease.
So many people float through life without feeling the extent of human emotion or experience—they don’t hold on and feel, but exist in a constant state of “letting go,” remaining untouched and safe.
I don’t want to withdraw from the world and experiences; I want to fully engage and participate with life and relationships. Perhaps yoga is less about letting go and more about gliding between these two spaces—we hold on, to let go, only to hold on again.
So, yogis and other folk, while I claim to be no expert, I contradict this wisdom. I proclaim a resounding “no”—yoga is not simply about letting go. I believe the essence of yoga is this simple secret:
Hold what is dear and near to your heart with all your might, hug it like your life depends on it, and when the time comes to let go, as is ever so, let it go.
Author: Talia Gutin
Editor: Catherine Monkman