As I go into the third week of this project, I am another day behind in the 31 days of Revolution practices. Yesterday I was hit with the effects of one of the changes I’ve made to my diet as a prelude to cutting out sugar. I think I mentioned a few days ago that I had starting having some very dark chocolate after meals (we’re talking 85/90%), instead of something with a higher sugar content. Unfortunately, low sugar means high cocoa. I’d been relatively laissez-faire about my cocoa intolerance recently (probably due to the huge amount of chocolate on offer over Christmas), but my body did not like this super-dark chocolate. I woke up yesterday with seriously intense sinus pain, which took most of the day to go, and was still hanging around a bit this morning. The result was no yoga yesterday, and donating all of my dark chocolate supplies to my husband (which, to be honest, was a good result for him as this was all really decent chocolate, including some Montezuma’s which I was slightly devastated to let go).
I was so happy to be in very little pain this morning, and that what pain there was disappeared after a couple of hours, that I was really looking forward to today’s practice. The accompanying email certainly struck a chord with me:
“Sometimes when you are overwhelmed by a situation, sometimes when you are overcome with a sensation that you cannot make magically disappear, sometimes in the darkest of dark days you have no other choice than to lean in. Lean in, stay awake and learn.”
I did enjoy the practice, but I also found it quite frustrating. Rather than the frustration coming from any of the poses, it was the concept of “lightness” that I was struggling with. This is something that I saw as a very physical concept, which I instinctively associated with being a perfectly flexible yogi, who can float between poses without losing the rhythm of their breath. I didn’t associate it with someone like me who is still learning and who, to be honest, feels pretty heavy and clumsy in a lot of the poses. Having someone say “find some lightness” or “move with lightness” can provoke an immediate, irritated response of “yes but what do you mean!” or “I’m trying but it’s not working!” (I am not great at being what I would judge to be “bad” at things – one of the many things that yoga is slowly helping me with!)
I tried my best through the practice, and physically I could again feel that my body is strengthening and full body awareness in any given pose is starting to come more naturally, but I just wasn’t connecting with that concept of lightness. Then, at the end of the practice, Adriene said something that switched on a lightbulb in my head (no pun intended). She asked how we react to what we see when we look in the mirror, whether the reaction is one of darkness and despair, or one of lightness (or words to that effect, anyway). I think that then I understood that lightness isn’t a concept entirely divorced from the ease, stillness and concentration on the present moment that have formed the focus of previous practices. When I connected it to how I want to feel when I look in the mirror (and the darkness and despair are things that I’m all too familiar with), it all started to make sense. I was almost tempted to go back and do the practice again.
I think today’s practice goes to show that you don’t only gain benefits from yoga when things fall seamlessly into place during the practice. Frustration can prompt realisations as well. Having finally got how this concept of lightness feeds into everything else that is being covered in Revolution, I was able to look back at the practice and understand a little more why I was feeling frustrated and irritated. It’s not something that I’m very familiar with on a day-to-day basis, so it’s not really surprising that I unable to incorporate it into my approach to yoga on cue. At least having a greater understanding means that I can actively work on that.
I think it’s worth ending with the Eleanor Roosevelt quotation from the email accompanying this practice:
“It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”
That seems so very appropriate in today’s world and at this particular moment in time. It’s up to each of us to light our own candle.