Yesterday, I took two yoga classes for the first time in a LONG time. It felt beautiful, wonderful, incredible. (Sometimes I think I use those words too much but then I realize if you’re going to use ANY words too much, those are definitely good choices.)
Sometimes I find that when I work out after a long time without moving my body it feels as though I am a brick trying to move across a cement floor. It’s that nails on a chalkboard/apple skin/shoulder-cringing/eyeball-squeezing nasty feeling of unwanted friction – stiffened with lack of use and unwilling to move forward.
Other times, I feel like something in my body was sleeping and has finally woken up – like I’ve finally restored balance and every muscle and fiber of my being is more awake, more aware, more connected. My brain seems to send impulses faster and movement comes easier with every breath. I feel like at last I’ve jumped some kind of hurdle – like my body will never hurt again – like all of the pain is gone and can’t come back.
But, it always does. Why do the things we love to do hurt so much? Why cant pain leave beauty and pleasure alone? Why can’t good be totally free from evil, end evil be completely void of good? Why do right and wrong mean different things to different people at different times? I wonder.
I took a 6:30pm Vinyasa class with a good friend last night. It was a delicious class – full of flowing movement, freedom, focus, and determination to GET somewhere. I’d taught earlier that day and found a quote to use in class. For some reason, the occasion never arose to actually use it. So it just hung in my mind – slowly dissolving away as the afternoon went by, gradually being layered over with to do lists, traffic woes, and concerns for the future. However – it stayed with me long enough for me to share it with my friend before she taught. It was a quick moment of inspiration transferral – a few words to her and somehow she not only managed to remember it, but managed to weave it into her theme seamlessly and with more grace than I ever could have done.
Her theme for class was Ohm’s law. I = V/R or Electric Current = Voltage over Resistance. Our bodies are all made of electricity – and our breath flows on the physical, energetic current that is our being. She focused this class on the Resistance portion. Interesting, I thought, to start at the end of the equation – because that is (If I remember 10th grade Physics class correctly…which it’s likely I don’t) usually the place to start if you want a solution.
She spoke of finding the spaces of resistance in our lives – physically, mentally, spiritually. I was surprised to find, yesterday, that unlike that brick grating disruptively against cement, I encountered little to no resistance on my mat – in my body or elsewhere. As if on cue, she acknowledged the times when there is no resistance, and encouraged us to celebrate this lack – to take joy in a freedom it brings. However, as I lay on mat, I realized that I have not celebrated the lack of resistance that I have lately been blessed with. Each time I am granted a free-flowing path, I find a moment or two of gratitude, then I simply move on to my next goal, my next step. Towards what? No idea. But I haven’t taken the time to celebrate, to enjoy, to be free; I haven’t reveled in the unbridled cushion of fearlessness that lack of resistance inspires. Instead I just keep plunging forward, thinking only of the next challenge.
I crave resistance. I seek it out, strengthen it, challenge it, and try my best to get its attention. Most of us do. Most of us like to make it hard on ourselves. And we should! Because without resistance, there would be no gravity, no stability, and no growth. We would be floating, disconnected, swirling and unintentional beings without the capacity for transformation. In order to stretch a muscle safely and effectively, there MUST be resistance. There must be something holding it back from the direction it is trying to go.
When exploring the flexibility of our muscles, there are times of pain, of surrender, of pleasure, joy, grief, acceptance, frustration, and triumph. While we may not recognize these feeling so acutely when stretching our hamstrings, the same sensations and transformations happen when we stretch or minds, our beliefs, our hearts, and our ability to connect with others. There is a journey from the point of inflexibility, stiffness, stagnation, and grasping stubbornness to the release that comes when resistance is acknowledged, utilized, and then let go. Along this journey is where we transform, grow, learn, and tap into our internal capacity for wisdom and love.
The quote that I shared with my friend and she in turn gifted back to me says all of this very simply. It doesn’t give us details, or a handbook, or even a real direction to look in for answers. No selection of words, however poignant, can begin to do this. They can, however, bring our awareness to what we already know – somewhere deep within us – and that is just about the best thing you can hope for from words.
“You must see with eyes unclouded by hate. See the good in that which is evil, and the evil in that which is good. Pledge yourself to neither side, but vow instead to preserve the balance that exists between the two.”
― Hayao Miyazaki