The Dark Side Within

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Keep your dark and your light sides in balance with Alternate Nostril Breathing, or Nadi Shodhana. This simple breathing exercise helps to clear congestion, balance our breathing patterns, and ultimately bring balance to our mind and emotions. Do this every day! Practice this pranayama with us here on the blog this week, and ever after in the MOJO Member Space.

On to the blog…

I woke up this morning and just did not want to do yoga. At all. I felt crabby and tired, and the last thing I wanted to do was get up and do some stupid yoga. That's right, I said "stupid yoga." Sometimes, it just starts to feel like, "yoga this, yoga that, yoga, yoga, stinkin' yoga." So, what did I do with myself? I got up and did some yoga. But, maybe not in the way you think…

Scott came in from walking the dog, and said, “Let’s go surfing.” Mind you, I was still very much Oscar in the trashcan and thought, “It’s dark, raining, and cold, and I don't even want to do yoga this morning. You think I want to drag my not-so-happy ass out of bed and go surfing right now?" Well, Scott and the call of the ocean must hold a lot of sway over me, because something deep inside me nudged and nudged until I conceded to get out of my trashcan and go.

The weather, once out of our jungle cavern, was astonishingly cooperative: warm, dry, sunny, and windless. After all this drearily cold rain we've been having in Haiku, it felt like cracking a bit of a brittle chrysalis open just enough to let in a window of warmth.  We found a spot that seemed reserved just for us, at least for a little while, I hoped. What some might call mere bumps in the water, I was ready to take on as perfectly-sized surf.

But, my body and mind were still very much crammed into their crinkly cocoon. For the first few waves I found myself in nothing but white-water, open faces just out of reach, constantly getting pantsed by waves on the paddle back out, and wobbling all around onmy new board. Grrr. I was struggling to find my deeply-buried water-woman groove. In spite of all that, though, there is just something about being out in the water that makes it just damn-near impossible for me to keep a smile off my face for very long. Soon enough, I got onto one of those bumpy, water-park ride kind of waves that's horribly crappy but always manages to jiggle the giggles right up to the surface. You couldn’t pry the smile off my face if you tried.

With the wind graciously waiting for us to get out of the water before going about its usual business of blowing, we had a blast-fest of smiles, laughs, kisses, and slow-motion bottom turns for a glorious hour and a half all by ourselves.

Now, that's what I call some good yoga. There wasn't a single Downward Facing Dog in sight, yet I came away from this morning knowing that I just had some of the best yoga I've had in a while. Yes, I was a yoga dork and used a couple of pranayamas to warm my tiny frigid body in the wintry tropical waters (mid 70’s - brrr). But, that's not the yoga I'm talking about. It’s just as the great poet Rumi described it, “Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.” The best yoga always seems to be found in staying open enough to feel that pull of what I really love, and let it lead me to a priceless calming of those ugly vrittis, that darkness that we all have inside. That calming isn't always to be found in a pretty asana. After all, of 196 Yoga Sutras, Patanjali reserved only 3 for asana. Yoga, for me, is everywhere in everything, and I hope it’s the same for you. It's up to us to detect the yoga precisely where we happen to be, to allow ourselves to sense it: whether that's in the light and shiny places or in the dark and dreary ones.

Ultimately, our reactions to the things that rear their heads in our lives make the biggest difference in how happy we are on the whole. We can choose to react negatively or positively to pretty much anything, but that choosing is something that takes a lot of practice. We have to really train our minds, learning how to make those choices over and over again that leave us feeling healthier and happier, while not neglecting or suppressing the darker tendencies on the other side of our balance scale.

We all have the vrittis, those fluctuations of the mind that lead us all over the place. It's okay to not feel happy and rosy all the time. Usually, it's just part of being human. It's the constant practice in choosing the things that lead us to greater health and happiness that makes all the difference in how we handle those darker moments. The more we practice, the more we're rewarded. The practice I've put in thus far is probably what conspired to gift me a glorious morning in spite of myself. I just needed to catch a few rays, catch a few waves, and catch a bit of yoga's ever-pervasive ways. For that, my respect for yoga is always deepening and my understanding of its nature is always evolving. So, be on the lookout: because yoga just might sneak up and catch you precisely when you're not looking.


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