When my eldest elf was a toddler he hated transitions. If we were playing outside he wanted to stay there, ditto if we were in the car. Asking him to move from one location or activity to another caused epic meltdowns, tantrums and often an attempt to take a huge chunk out of my quadriceps with his teeth. It was not that he hated the new activity or place, because once he calmed down he would be happy as a clam. Instead it was the in-between, the moving from one thing to another. It was the change that rocked his little elf world.
So it is not surprising to me at all as a yoga teacher and a yogi myself that the place where people rush, take short cuts and rely on the edges of their bodies the most are the transitions between poses. These murky, and frankly often dangerous, areas are the arch enemies to wrists, rotator cuffs and hips. We lower down in Chaturanga dandasana and tweak our shoulders because we are trying to keep up with our neighbor. We step forward to runner’s lunge without care and hurt our hamstring or knee. We move through changes and our bodies throw a tantrum because we are not careful.
My local yogis know I belabor the point of transitions and safety almost to a fault. I want them to learn the safe way to flow, even if that means stopping to focus, and breathe and move differently. Perhaps that even means not doing that transition, period. Once the grace can return to these flows through conscious awareness of our structural boundaries and care to our bodies, they no longer seem like transitions at all. They are merely part of the movement of our practice.
When I finally clued into the challenges my eldest elf had with transitions I changed my tone. Like setting our knees down as we lower to Bhujangasana in Surya Namaskar, I allowed him to take control of these fluid moments. I gave him heads up, I asked him questions, and rather than racing to get him inside, I allowed him to make that move slowly. I showed him I cared about how he felt, loved his passion and it eased his anger. I added intention and thought and in the process made him less upset and my thighs less interesting to bite.
I am trying to remember what I teach my students and what my eldest elf taught me about transitions today. I have closed the door on one thing as I await the opening of another. It feels raw like my shoulders used to in a million flows. It feels sad like my elf did when I made him stop spraying the hose in the backyard. It feels like I want to stomp my feet and take out my frustrations on something with my teeth or my hands or my mat. But I won’t.
I have learned to find the way to transition on my mat with ease and with strength. I have seen the newness in my practice by embracing slow and steady movement. I hope those I have had to temporarily leave will understand the necessity of this move, will see it only as a brief bend in the road and will find patience as I search for what is next. I know in my heart the tools my teachers and my elves have taught me will guide me to find the next journey, the new door.
When it appears, I’ll be ready and I’ll let my love open the door…. stay tuned yogis.