A Hell of a Practice: My Quest to Soften, Surrender, and Open to Grace

Posted by YOGANONYMOUS on 9/7/11 in Uncategorized

I'm working on softening my yoga practice and it's not easy. A lot of us guys struggle with muscles that get in the way. Big shoulders, tight hip flexors, football quads. Not only does this make the physical practice of asana challenging, the mental side is not tipped in our favor either. Many of us grew up in an athletic culture that values pushing your self to extremes to maximize physical ability, capture a league title, or make an all-star team. Digging into yoga philosophy over the past seven years has exposed me to very different values.

Selfless effort. Let go of the clinging. Chill out. Breathe. While you're at it, contort your body into seemingly absurdist shapes. Literally and figuratively turned upside down, I have learned that to expand my asana practice and access some of yoga's professed fruits – less fear, anxiety, judgment, I need to slow down and soften my the struggle. Anusara Yoga calls this process Open to Grace.

When I over-effort in class my friends hear me grunt and my teacher sees me stare intensely. I squeeze my muscles as if trying to choke the pose from my body. I am always determined to give the poses everything I have got, undoubtedly a positive trait. After all, I grew up pushing my body through intensity. However, “open to grace” is revolutionary for a guy like me. Venturing into foreign territory, I am scared to surrender control.

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