What would you gain today if you gave up worrying about what you can’t control and spent more time on what you could?
I’ve been asking myself this question as I prepare to move into a new house this week. To start, I tackled a stack of boxes in my closet that have followed me around the country for seven years. I sorted through piles of CDs (yes, CDs), mementos, piano music and pages upon pages of my early writings and journals.
Halfway through the second box, I realized why I’ve held onto these things (now so easily donated or tossed in the recycle bin) for so long.
Revisiting the old me used to be tough work. I preferred to squirrel away my possessions, rather than relive the discomfort those possessions carried.
But most of all, I just got lazy.
Out of sight, out of mind — but not out of my closet. So this week, I purged with purpose. I looked at my things not for how they made me feel, but for what I would gain if I gave them up.
It’s a simple shift that applies not just to things but to thoughts. A shift I never would have made had I not come to my yoga mat, first.
Enough is enough
There’s a common misconception that to be a yogi or yogini, you must be able to withstand any environment and remain non-reactive to it. If that’s the case, I fail on a daily basis due to my little dog’s barking alone. The dog, she likes to talk!
To me, practicing yoga is becoming aware of the environment you’re in and how you react to it. Then, when you’re triggered, deciding to act with love instead of ego.
This is the tough part because we all have triggers, things that set us off for no clear reason. It’s as if our minds tune in to one unwavering frequency (in my dog’s case, other barking dogs outside) and can’t focus on anything else.
Whether we physically purge these triggers in the form of items, or battle them in our minds, the challenge is the same. Eventually, we have to say “enough is enough.”
Even cold-blooded lizards that rely on the sun to regulate their body temperature seek out shadow during the hottest part of the day.
How often do you?
It’s time to molt
All this lizard talk sparked from a conversation Evan and I were having about transitioning into our new home together.
Lizards rely on their environment for their survival. We often try to block out ours by doing everything we can to self-insulate. But blocking out what’s best for you often means putting up with, say, an abusive relationship or difficulties at work.
Take it from lizard: There’s only so much sunshine you can stand before you need to seek shade.
And get this — lizards molt. I had no idea until I watched this video. Make sure you watch until :10 seconds, otherwise this next part might not make sense.
Lizards molt and they eat their molting skin. (Collective ewww!)
Sure, sometimes our lives (not just our faces) need a major microdermabrasion, but give it to nature to take it one step further. To which my boyfriend metaphorically pointed out that when you’re shedding your past experiences, let it feed you as you grow a new skin.
Much more poetic than the reaction I had to the video.
Making a smooth transition
Even though you may not like the skin you’re in now, the truth is you grew that skin. Because of this, you have the power to shed anything that needs to molt, unstick anything that’s stuck, and take responsibility for whatever negative situation you know you need to let go.
Shedding is risky business. There’s always the chance you might look back and be nostalgic for the person you used to be.
But more often than not, you’ll open up that high school journal and have a chuckle at your old skin, realizing that at one point you shed it like all the rest.
No, literally. Over 24 hours, it’s estimated that a million skin cells fall off our bodies. A lizard eating its own skin doesn’t seem so gross now, does it?
Try it: Lizard Pose, Utthan Pristhasana
To practice Lizard Pose is to surrender to a place that’s not necessarily comfortable, but that’s good for you. It encourages a deep opening in the hips, hamstrings and thighs and helps to clear some of the emotional clutter from the body.
Modifications: Start with your palms pressed below your shoulders. On your exhales, bend into the elbows and see if you can place your forearms on the ground. You can prop your forearms on blocks if they don’t quite reach. Practice softening into the back of the heart, no matter which variation you choose. Your back knee can also remain lifted, but I like to set the knee down to hold the pose longer with less effort.
- From Downward Facing Dog, exhale and step your right leg up to your right foot in a lunge. Bring your right hand inside the foot and turn the right toes toward the corner of your mat.
- Stack your palms under your shoulders and drop your left knee to the mat. Hug your right inner thigh in and ensure your whole right foot is pressed into the ground. Inhale and lengthen through the spine, exhale and soften in your hips, keeping them as level as possible. If this stretch is enough, stay here.
- Forearms variation: On your next exhale, bend the elbows and place them directly underneath the shoulders, palms flat on the ground in front of you. Continue to press your right inner thigh toward your right shoulder. Keep the left toes active as you maintain a lightness in your upper back.
- Stay for at least eight deep cycles of breath. To come out, walk yourself back to your palms, lift your left knee and swing your right leg back into Downward Facing Dog. Pedal out your legs before switching to the other side.
Do tell: Have you ever looked back at yourself and wondered what the heck you were thinking?