Recently I have been looking back to February 2016, when I found myself on my mat in the bright, spacious yoga room at Hale Pule’s Yoga teacher training. In that expansive month-long opportunity, I learned to look ahead.
Landing with a thump in my plank pose, I hear Myra say, “Look ahead.” “Look ahead when you jump back.” Later when I jumped forward to meet myself at the top of the mat, I noticed how I clung to the image of my feet, following them compulsively to meet my hands, as if they might not be there if I didn't strain my neck to ensure they were moving.
That month, I was constantly being reminded to look ahead and forced to recognize how little I trusted the space where I couldn’t see. How little I trusted my body to move correctly when I wasn’t closely monitoring it and how comfortable I felt looking back to the familiarity of how I knew Yoga to look and how I thought my body was supposed to behave.
Your ability to look ahead on your mat directly correlates with your ability to look ahead in life. For me, the magic of Yoga is that it provides a safe space to cultivate the tools that help me navigate life. It sets you on a path toward your highest, truest self, and on that path you encounter distractions: old, potentially self-destructive, habits, patterns, behaviors and even people that pull you back into a nostalgic, familiar fog, preventing you from moving forward on your chosen path.
This is where looking ahead comes in. It keeps you focused on your truth. It keeps you in the present. Looking forward requires a kind of faith in ourselves and in the space unfolding around us, and that’s why I needed the reminder again and again. It’s a letting go of control. If we don’t monitor our body in motion, how do we know if it’s really moving correctly? How do we know if the alignment is right? How do we know if our pose and the transition in between each pose looks the way it’s supposed to look?
We don’t. But we are granted the opportunity to know how Yoga, true union, can feel. We learn what our body feels like when everything comes together without force or control. We learn what feels right to us, in motion and in stillness. We can sense when our body is in alignment or out. And we have the opportunity to trust our body to meet us on our mat, looking however it looks.
Once I started looking ahead and not watching my body move, I felt (and heard) my body move effortlessly and gracefully in a way I had never experienced before in my Yoga practice. And I realized the only thing holding me back from looking ahead all these years was fear. Not knowing what I would be and how my practice would look if I let go instead of clutched to whatever I had always been.
Fear consistently tries to holds us back. But there is always the opportunity to chose faith and Yoga allows us to make that decision again and again until it begins to feel like our natural flow.
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