Sunday, October 3, 2010

The life and work of Transitions

When I stop to consider how yoga has affected my daily life, how it affects each action, two thoughts come to mind - intention and transition. As this period of my life is a long-winded transition, that has been my focus these past few weeks.

Yoga is the perfect opportunity to notice those moments that we often ignore, and when we ignore, can lead to physical and emotional turmoil, or in the case of the workplace, stress. Yoga, when viewed as meditation in motion, brings us back to the present moment, each moment. Our breath is our reminder that we are here now, and we can focus on now. While this is a wonderful meditation, and one I will explore more fully another day, there is a more physical way that yoga teaches us to transition gracefully and with strength - vinyasa.

Vinyasa literally means breath synchronized with flow. When broken down into its roots, however, it means “to place in a special way.” So, when we are flowing between poses in a yoga class, we are being asked to place each movement in a special way, to notice each movement between the postures.

As a yoga student, I have had days where I move through the transition poses without any thought, other days where they are the focus of my practice. On the latter days, I leave class feeling more connected, more focused, and more centered. Noticing the transitions allows each moment, each asana, to be strong and steady. It also helps bring me to the more esoteric place of being in the now - the eventual “goal.” Those days, I see that every moment is special, just not the moments during the day that we think are supposed to be special.

As a yoga teacher, I see students who practice without the conscious awareness on the transitions. Between plank (push-up) and chataranga (bottom of a push-up), their hearts literally collapse, with no awareness to hold them up. Often, this is because people in a yoga class do not want to put their knees down to provide the strength for that transition, but want to prove to themselves that they can move without that aid. I did it for years. But as a teacher, it looks painful, and that moment of awareness is lost. I know that without proper alignment, these students can hurt themselves physically, and that physical pain can lead to emotional and psychological pain and stress. I see people rush through transitions to get somewhere, but the next posture is not the goal - the goal is awareness.

It has taken me years to fully grasp the importance of transitions in the physical asana practice. I “got it” intellectually. That’s the lawyer in me. I never understood is physiologically. But the day I got it, my practice changed; my life changed.

During a day at work, we can have 15 things to do. If we refuse to take the time to transition between them, our brain never gets a break, and each item on our to-do list becomes one confusing mess. Those moments of transition are moments to reset, to acknowledge that one item has ended, and it is time to move onto the next one. For lawyers, this can help us remember that each client is different. We stop putting Bob’s name where Jane’s should be. (After reading what some lawyers write, I know that this is a common problem.)

Outside the workplace, learning to transition with awareness reminds us that nothing in life is permanent. We are constantly in a state of change, and that is nothing to be feared, but rather revered. Benjamin Franklin once said, “When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” It can be easy to get caught up in the big moments in life, the phone calls, the memos, the clients, the vacations, the school day, whatever those big moments are, but it is the awareness we bring to the moments in between that define the strength with which we can move into, and be fully present with, those big moments.

Transitions are where we create the strength and the awareness that can make the big moments in our lives full and unique. How do you transition between tasks and daily actions?


Ⓒ 2010 Rebecca Stahl, all rights reserved

No comments:

Post a Comment