By David Meyer
Yoga offers ways to establish a life of balance and transformation.
Yogic Way would like to take a moment to honor the trees during this time of year when perhaps they need it the most. These majestic life forms serve as the extension of our lungs, supplying our atmosphere with life force. As the leaves continue to fall, the trees begin to become more vulnerable to the elements of nature as their structures are exposed to the world. From their exposure, the trees derive strength: when the leaves fall to the ground, energy is sent back into the roots. The decomposition of the leaves provides stored energy from the sun, feeding the soil with nutrients necessary for the trees so that in spring, they are able to grow grander than the year before. Each cycle of the tree is invaluable. Each natural cycle is transformative.
The question is why, in our own lives, when we find ourselves in the midst of vulnerability, do we often respond with fight, flight, or freeze? Recently, I watched a TedTalk presentation in which Brené Brown, a social worker and researcher, suggested that vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, creativity, and joy. But to get there, she explained that we must work through the fear that so often accompanies vulnerability. To the mindful, a central concept of yoga may be found in Brown’s belief that there is a connection between an the openness to let go of expectations and non-attachment to results.
With the realization that we are a part of nature, I invite you to take a lesson from the trees’ cyclical nature that also applies to us as human beings. When we are in a state of vulnerability, instead of shying away from the emotion, might we embrace it as an opportunity for growth and transformation into the realms of love, belonging, creativity, and joy?
From a yogic perspective, we can learn to work through these instances of fear by coming back to our breath. During stages of flight, fight, and freeze, our sympathetic nervous system undergoes arousal in the form of increased fluctuations in respiration and accelerated heart rate. The science of yoga teaches us that we are not helpless when it comes to these unpleasant states of arousal. Just as the breath is linked to the sympathetic nervous system, it is also linked to the parasympathetic nervous system, which is linked to calming and relaxation. Via the practice of conscious intentional breathing, we have the ability to control and reduce heightened states of arousal connected with fight, flight, and freeze. So next time we come to a state of vulnerability, we can breathe through the tension with the awareness that, just like the trees, we too grow and transform as a result.
As part of our practice this week and as an “Ode to the Trees,” we will work with the balancing asana known as Vriksasana (tree pose). As fall semester nears its stressful end and holidays arrive with new demands, tree pose will allow us to root ourselves in calm.
The beauty of balancing poses is that they truly connect us with the present moment. Along with these instructions to tree pose, Yogic Way would like to remind you that the act of balancing on one leg may bring up feelings of vulnerability, so it is important that you stay connected with your breath. If balancing poses come easily to you, perhaps play with your balance by shifting your gaze up or down and side to side. Before shifting to tree pose on the opposite leg, take a moment in reflection, observing the sensations of the body and the breath. While taking this moment with yourself to connect with the breath, bring into the mind’s eye the cyclical nature of the breath. Perhaps we might imagine the pathway of the breath as being the common bond that connects us with the trees: the trees provide us with oxygen and we provide the trees carbon dioxide.
Be brave and take your practice outside! As my yoga instructor once said: “We are human when we fall out of our poses. We become Yogis when we get back into them.”
Namaste, my friends.