Practicing the asanas makes us acutely aware of the physical sensations that moving and stretching generate. Moving and stretching also generates emotional and mental reactions, especially when things get intense. That thigh burn challenges us to remain in the moment and channel any mental anguish into the breath. "Just breathe," says the yoga teacher and she is right.
My first yoga teacher, Eddie Marashian, would tell his students that a pause always exists just before the heat of rage strikes. If we learn to redirect our minds into this pause we can achieve self-control and learn to let go of the rage instead of engaging it.
But we need to learn how to identify this pause and our bodies provide the first warning signs, the tightening of the chest, the knot in our stomach, our ragged breathing. Once those signs hit, we must train ourselves to stop mentally and maybe even physically and allow ourselves to feel these sensations without acting on them.
A physical asana practice provides us the space to focus on our bodily sensations and experience our emotional reactions as we encounter intense feelings of discomfort. I think we can all agree that Chair sucks, even as one yoga teacher preaches, "YES. We love Chair." That thigh burn awakens our minds into total awareness of the moment, not too pleasant as our minds start to chatter incessantly about how Chair sucks. Yes, Chair sucks but can we override our minds and refocus our attention on our breath, our ragged, strained breath and realize that the moment will end?
Photos from Be the Water Yoga Flow, a Bruce Lee inspired yoga flow by Nina Yau. Find Nina online: