We’re good at what we practice. It’s possible to do hard things the hard way, and it’s also possible to do hard things the easy way. Often we get stuck in the first, because how could it be any other way? Hard things are hard! So it’s all we practice, doing hard things the hard way. But it’s just as possible to practice the other way: easy in the midst of impossible challenges, movable in the face of immovable obstacles.
So how do we practice this? Here’s a way to begin:
1) Soften. If you’re already tense before you begin, it’s not going to get any better. You’ll move into rock like a rock, which tends to result in something breaking! Exhale. Soften through every part of your body. Put a little bend in your elbows and knees. Be movable. If someone was to give you a push, you’d ripple easily rather than topple over. Move into rock like water, and you’ll flow right where you need to go.
2) Inhale deep. Often when something is hard, we hold our breath. Our muscles tighten, preparing for war! We become immovable, and can only move with tremendous force and effort. There’s another way. Begin challenging movements with your breath rather than your muscles. A very deep inhale will start the lift, expansion, and strengthening of your body, overcoming inertia with little effort. The work you need from your muscles then follows more naturally and easily. You’ll get the same force without tension and without tiring.
Of course, this takes practice. But like yoga in general, you don’t have to take it on faith. You can experience it every step of the way for yourself, just by jumping in. You’ll notice right away how much easier it is to move through your whole body when your arms and legs are easy rather than stiff like solid rocks. And you can feel how very deep breaths give lift and lightness to your body, even when you’re simply standing still. With practice, you can create the same tireless strength in any situation.
In time, you can use all this to pull off some neat tricks in yoga class, no struggle required. More interestingly, you’ll find it helps you along your way in creating a happy, healthy, capable life.