The Road Within
Last week, my friend and manager, Ava, and I left Wanderlust and took a road trip from Lake Tahoe through Napa Valley and into San Francisco, where I was scheduled to teach a workshop.
Taking a trip like this was fun and freeing--something I hadn't done since college. I've traveled, sure, but mostly on airplanes and highways. It's been a long time since I've stopped to smell the roses, literally, or walked through vineyards, wandered without an agenda, and taken my time getting where I needed to go.
When I left more space around the journey itself, rather than seeing it as useless time between my starting place and my destination, a whole new world opened up. We turned off the highway and into local communities and had adventures I never would have had otherwise, like singing impromptu karaoke into a straw at a local pub or eating an incredible meal at Bouchon in Yountville. A few times we turned off the GPS and just tuned into where our hearts told us to go next. We were led unerringly toward something life-affirming and just right.
It was an experience similar to the one I aim to offer my students during yoga class. I've often asked them to pause and even play during the transitions between poses, those moments we often rush through on our way to the "goal" pose. The word "tapas" means "heat," but it also symbolizes the space we make with the energy and awareness we bring to the present moment. When we release our grasp on achieving the goal and wake up to what's going on every step of the way, we begin to see how fully we're surrounded by exactly what we need to evolve, to be happy and fulfilled, and to love our lives.
What you do before you get into a pose dictates its quality once you arrive. It's the same in your life: The millions of smaller actions you take will determine the strength--or shakiness--of the foundation underneath the more showy milestones of your life.
In fact, I'd even go so far as to say that if you're not bringing a consistency of mindfulness, spaciousness, and quality action into your transitional periods, you may not reach your goals after all. If you want to be a financial advisor, but you're irresponsible with your own money, it's unlikely that any clients will trust you with theirs. If you do reach your goal on a shaky foundation, it's far more likely that your dreams will crumble around you, undermined from the very roots (hello, Bernie Madoff!).
Instead, what we yogis practice both on and away from the mat, is making sure that we pay attention to the entirety our lives, not just the parts; and doing so most of the time instead of just sporadically. It's as simple as taking a deep breath and reminding ourselves that we're here now. We stop time-traveling to the past or future when we learn that the only thing that will determine our future movement is what we do right now.
This inner road trip is the key to living out loud and enjoying your life holistically today. Not when you have the man, the cash, or have lost that last 10 pounds. Why wait? The power you have to self-generate satisfaction is waiting for you to see it, claim it, and act from it. When you stop, look around, and listen to your deepest wisdom in the space you've created, you will suddenly, sweetly realize:You are everything you need.
Here's a transition that I've made into its own pose, to exemplify that every moment is pivotal, not just the flashy, more obvious ones. There's a whole universe of strengthening and freedom to be found right here, on the journey within.
Core Pose: Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose) with Core Circles Variation
When you go straight into Side Angle Pose from Warrior 2, the tendency can be to enter the asana with a over-curved lower back, front ribs jutting forward, and the back body constricted. To re-enter the pose with a more centered alignment and free the habitual hip, low back, upper back, and shoulder tension it can create, we need to exit it, or as I often say in class, back off to move forward.
First, come into the pose from Warrior 2 with your forearm on the front thigh and your other arm over your ear. Notice how your lower back and shoulders feel. Are you core-connected or are your shoulder blades, back muscles, and legs doing most of the work?
Begin to circle your top arm back behind you. Take it down toward the floor and, as you do, turn your torso toward the floor and draw your low belly away from your front thigh and upward, into your sternum. This will activate your core strength, bring length to the tailbone, support to the lower back, and also open the gateway of your front hip joint. You're not pressing out the low back curve at all with this move, but supporting it from the front of the spine as well as from the back.
Continue to sweep your arm forward now and back up over your ear. Press your feet down strongly; maintain the stability, shoulder fluidity, and core awareness you cultivated during the transition; and enjoy new strength, freedom and areas of stretch releasing in your new, more intentional goal of a pose.