“Always say ‘yes’ to the present moment. What could be more futile, more insane, than to create inner resistance to what already is? What could be more insane than to oppose life itself, which is now and always now? Surrender to what is. Say ‘yes’ to life—and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you.” ~ Eckhart Tolle
Off the side of a busy road, down a dusty dirt track shared by scooters and feet alike, where the dominant traffic sets the flow, is a room smallish and dark.
There is a large opening along the side of the room, it could be a window but there’s no glass, and it’s draped by bamboo blinds.
There are vines and plants in abundance which fall around a statue of Ganesha in the middle of the window. The room is alive with the sounds of nature, of geckos and water, and soft chanting playing from a speaker in the corner.
As I enter the room there is a soft light; it becomes stronger as my eyes adjust.
There are many people here already, busily arranging their mats, bolsters, and straps.
At the front of the room, a woman is crouched over, in a forward pose. She is still.
I find a place in the room at the front to the side, and arrange my belongings. One mat, one blanket, two blocks and a strap. I place my water bottle to the right. I am home, and curl into the pose of a child to find my breath.
The first breath is small.
The second breath stays a little longer, but is shallow.
My hips are stiff. Some tweaks, some aches, the usual.
As the students settle the teacher starts and asks, “Why are you here?” Really, she says, tell me why you are here?
Panicked glances dart across the room, some students offer, “I am here for yoga, to physically improve, to experience yoga.” I could relate to that, all of those really. “I’m here on holiday, and want to experience a new class in a country away from my home.”
The teacher became agitated, “These are not reasons for being here.”
It was clear, we’d taken a wrong turn. This was not a place for pleasantries. I failed.
She corrected us, “Your intention should be something other, search further. If your purpose is physical exercise, there are other activities that will be of greater benefit to you.”
Some students picked up their mat and left. It felt wrong. I stayed, although I had the feeling that this would not be easy, and not pleasant.
The ambience changed, the chanting sound still filled the room, but I felt shaken. My mind returned to that dirt track I followed to get here, fighting the traffic in the wrong direction again.
Through a resonant OM we began.
The teacher was smooth and flexible, but my body couldn’t follow her. I did what I could, lying back and across the bolster, contorted and twisted with my knees supported by bricks; I struggled to breathe.
Surrender, she demanded, breathe into the pose. My inflexibility agitated her and she pushed and held down my body at times. I tried to send oxygen and energy to each part, but my breath stopped short, waited and pleaded for release in empathy with my muscles.
Each pose went for over 15 painful breaths. The postures were complex and difficult.
Then I found it.
Just like she said: surrender.
Let go of the fight. If I changed direction, stopped thinking about the pain and put my energy into releasing rather than holding and fighting the posture, I could let go.
The lesson that day, took me deeper than any class I had experienced before. I walked out of the class at the end of the lesson, changed. Surrender will forever be burned like a tattoo into my memory.
I hear the word surrender often now, when I find pain, physical or otherwise my body knows what to do. Instead of clenching and holding on, go the other way—relax and release, don’t fight it. Stay present with the pain and breathe through—lead it. My energy changes, instead of escalating to panic I stay calm, and a drowsy peace displaces my pain. The panic, the drama, the moment passes as quickly as it arises.
I surrender many things now, it’s my practice off the mat; surrender the fight to hold a job in a place that demands more than it returns; leave a relationship that binds two separate people through drama and fear.
Surrender and ascend the fear, settle in my place here and now on the floor, on this Earth and breathe.
It makes sense; I found my intention. My intention is to heal those places in me where the walls I’ve built around myself for protection work so well they enclose on me. My intention is to find the flow. To find the energy and its source where I feel it flow, and to connect with the energy beyond and around me.
Next week, I am starting my own journey of teaching Yin yoga. My goal is to go further, go deeper and help others make their own connection between the mat and their healing place.
Why are you going to do yoga today? Why are you driven to practice?
Editor: Travis May