Today's Daily Tip
Force vs. Feeling
The survival of the fittest. Looking out for number one. Achieving a goal. Winning. These are the ways of the world.
The survival of the most sensitive. Looking in for number one. Living the journey. Growing along the way. This is the way of yoga.
Our world teaches us to succeed by force. In schools and workplaces, we are tacitly encouraged to dominate our peers, to compete in "the struggle for existence," and to climb the corporate ladder by trampling over the heads of others. Our leaders invade and occupy other countries while multi-national corporations do whatever they deem necessary to win market share. The end is said to justify the means. Somehow, this approach to life is supposed to make us feel successful, happy, and even glorious.
As a reaction to this manner of living, some feel that success is not important at all. These people believe that being meek is the way, and that one's self is not important. So, on the one hand, we are encouraged to indulge in egoistic pursuits of glory, and, on the other hand, an equally one-sided pursuit of self-annihilation. But where does yoga fit into this debate?
Yoga is the middle way. It means neither acquisition nor denial, neither ego-inflation nor meekness, neither domination nor submission. So how do we, as yoga teachers, help our students find the elusive balance of the middle way in their practice and in their lives?
Our primary job is to guide our students toward their own heart center, where life is lived according to feeling. When we teach our students to feel the poses rather than force their way into them, we are teaching them to become sensitive to the unique human being that they are, to make decisions from inside, and to be in touch with the dictates of the divinity within. Our work as yoga teachers is to free our students so they can become wholly themselves. Whether in asana or pPranayama, whether in the building of relationships with self or others, our students must learn to find fulfillment through exploring the path rather than through forcing an end result. Feeling takes them into themselves, forcing takes them away.
When we want results, we push to make them happen. The moment we start to push, we are no longer aware of the effect this action is having on us or on our nervous system. Force is the opposite of feeling. When we force, we cannot feel. When we feel, we cannot force. Teach your students this maxim and let them be constantly attuned to their thoughts, words, and deeds, making them all come from feeling. Forcing is yang—it raises blood pressure, makes a person angry, and creates heart problems. Feeling is yin—it makes a person reflective, calm, and able to understand life.
When teaching poses, ask your students if they have the urge to be the best in class. Ask them to look inside and find the source of that desire. Suggest to them that this common urge is not native to the gentle human heart, but is indoctrinated by an insecure society. The urge to be the best leads to force, and force leads to injury. I constantly remind my students that forcing comes from ego, while feeling comes from the connection with one's Self. The chronic urge to succeed sacrifices the critical connection with the Self for a mere result, and for the satisfaction of the ego alone. In yoga, the victory is not in the victory but in the ability to feel more than we felt before. The more we feel, the more we can feel. Eventually, feeling becomes a way of life, and force, like a stone dropped into the ocean, sinks into oblivion.
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