Getting good with change: How yoga can help in trying times

Courtesy photo

Shree Yoga Taos' empty studio on Ledoux Street

J ohn Lennon wisely once said, "Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans." He knew change to be a fundamental fixture of nature. Nature not only changes, but through change nature is able to evolve and thrive.

In nature, change often takes place through an adverse process. Orchids, for instance, replant themselves after storms knock them out of their dwellings in old knotted trees. The shock of the fall stimulates rooting and new growth. Piñon seeds germinate only in the heat of roaring forest fires.

A hurricane creates a broad state of adversity encompassing all elements in the scope of its circular swing; nothing in the natural environment, no matter how easy and carefree, is outside the sphere of a hurricane's potential destruction. The natural world has evolved to weather such extreme storms; trees bend, they do not break. Nature is adverse and simultaneously incredibly adaptable; nature is good with change.

Life, as John Lennon described it, showed up for all of planet Earth concurrently with the arrival of COVID-19. Disruption accompanying social distancing has set up camp in the world's proverbial living room. What is happening? What is going to happen? These are two worthy questions that will go half-answered for the time being. If there ever were a time to play R.E.M.'s "It's the End of the World as We Know It," that time is now.

Life happens. How we respond to life happening is the key to experiencing life in peace.

Learning how to respond to life is a skill that enables us to be in the company of life's challenges without being taken out by them.

Responding to life is seeing the storm coming and getting ahead its challenges before the storm rolls in. This is how people who live in hurricane alley maintain their lives there.

The process is one of getting good with change. To get good with change is to stretch into the contracted aspects of our experiences and to shine a light of courage and willingness into the tight space. Getting good with change is to arrive in a place where ego is set aside and the courage and willingness to walk through what you cannot control overtakes the fear and apathy that keep you in reaction; the place where the alchemy of nature's adversity transcends us into the trust of something near to grace.

It's times like right now that spiritual practices benefit the most, when life shows up and blatantly reminds us that we are not in control. Yoga is one of those practices, which, unlike a strict religious practice, does not require a trip to a church for a Sunday sermon. Just the simple act of being in your body with attention will have powerful and positive effects on your mind and spirit during this harrowing time.

The physical practice (asana) by its nature enhances the ability to face fears and challenges head on with a calm mind. Additionally, the asana practice has other potent and inherent physiological benefits. Hatha yoga (that's another way to say asana) is made up of many bilateral movements. Moving through the postures with focused attention on breath, form and intention supports balanced health of endocrine system, promotes neuroplasticity and lengthens lifespan. It is for this reason yoga continues to be taken up and lauded by the many throughout the world.

While most people still perceive yoga as a way to touch your toes - that is a limited view of yoga. As a byproduct of the natural physiological benefits, a regular yoga practice lends itself to qualities that make life in the world, off the mat, more palatable and even enjoyable.

Regular practice aids in increasing patience, generosity, trust, calm, confidence, courage, forgiveness and more. This is because healthy nervous systems and bodies lend themselves to healthy brains and emotional bodies.

And when life happens, the practice of yoga enables us to regain our footing. Because yoga, like nature, puts us into adverse situations and reminds us how adaptable we are there. Practicing yoga is medicine in a time like this. The benefit to the physiological body alone will directly counteract the destruction caused by heightened stress and anxiety.

Many yoga teachers and studios around the world have taken their classes online. In Taos, as of this publication, AuraFitness, Hot Yoga Taos and Shree Yoga Taos have all gone online. Online classes are an antidote to isolation, stress, fear and feeling overwhelmed. Taking the time to practice regularly now will not only benefit you during this pandemic, but also in the future - the next time life happens.

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