We are creatures of habit. We don't like it when our routines are disrupted.
It's the same when our preconception of how things should be is challenged…say, when it comes to our yoga class. When this happens, it can throw off even our favourite activities and what used to always bring us contentment is suddenly a source of stress.
During one of my Dosha Vinyasa Yoga© classes, I threw such a wrench in the gears, so to speak, intentionally.
Ah…I can hear you asking: “Why would you do that?”.
The answer is this - the practice of yoga isn't just for the body. There's meditation, you say. But yoga-asana, the moving, physical class, should also cater to all our being – body, emotions, mind and spirit. This gets easily lost in the flow, especially when it's fast because it is so body oriented.
The “wrench” I threw in this particular case to incorporate the other “bodies” into a wholistic yoga-asana practice is music. 80’s pop, no less! So yes, I had reactions ranging from trepidation that the flow (on that day) would be fast to one of my tribe singing along before the class. Thankfully he stopped as soon as we started moving. To say that what I did was non-traditional is an understatement, but it did its job of introducing this very non-traditional, even confronting, element to disrupt a routine.
To exaggerate, it created chaos.
But it also created an opportunity to invite my tribe to draw their attention to the question WHY?
Why is it creating stress and chaos in the mind and emotions?
Is it because it’s not “yoga music”? Is it not a favourite song? Are there memories attached to the song? Is it the preconception that it’s “not yoga”? One could go on and on.
When faced with situations like this, there are 3 foreseeable outcomes:
You'll decide that you're comfortable with how things were and you're sticking to it;
You'll decide that this thing that was a stressor isn't so bad after all and swing whole-heartedly to its side; or
It doesn't bother you. You're happy with the old but will also try the new. It's not that you don't care, but you are content either way.
This is very much translatable off the mat.
When things we value are disrupted, our emotional responses can range from the first or second outcomes above, which can generate strong feelings and swing your emotions wildly - from anger because your “normal” has been disrupted to drastically changing things by dropping the old completely because you’re so high on the new.
We’ll talk about the Emotional Pendulum in a separate article, but in short, swinging the emotions wildly from one end to the other without conscious discernment pushes us out of balance and piles up the stress because eventually we'll realise that, perhaps, it wasn't what we really wanted.
The third outcome is where Santosha or contentment lives. Don't get me wrong. It's not that we should stop deciding on whether something is good or bad for us, right or wrong, beneficial or not. It’s about choosing what kind of emotional aftermath we will be left with.
Every-day contentment lives in that place where our emotional responses to stressors or stimulators is mindful and objective. It isn’t about being unfeeling and cold, but rather, being objective to gives us the emotional buffer we need to choose our response; even a heightened response. Believe me, there are times I choose the extreme of a cathartic release – quick, sharp and unequivocal. After, I feel content; not just because it's cathartic, but I know what kind of response I want, how I want to express it and importantly, no one is in the line of fire! That's also a conscious decision.
The second part after choosing our response is not letting the emotional weight linger in the mind and heart.
The knowledge that our emotional responses and aftermath can come from conscious decision making is strongly liberating – we are in control and free to choose.
When we understand that, that is when we truly practise Santosha. We can draw upon that contentment even in situations that would normally drive us crazy.
Left Photo by Alfonso Scarpa on Unsplash