Revelations in Downward Dog: Changing My Inner Narrative

I have had a regular morning movement practice for quite a few months now. Usually I just do some yoga, sometimes I’ll incorporate some dance, or hoop dance. I’ve noticed how much better I feel when I do this every day. My energy is up, my mood is better and my ability to handle frustration is WAY higher.  Sometimes though, like last week, I start slacking a bit.  I woke up too late to stretch  a couple times on busy days or I just didn’t put in enough time or effort and only did a few poses before I sat down with my tea at the computer. When I was stretching, I wasn’t really in the moment. I was listening to a Ted Talk or a book on tape. Basically I was being lazy and disengaged.

Unfortunately, that slacking for those two weeks or so really affected my body. I started to tighten up, especially after work or hoop class. My feet and hips started to hurt. My alignment was off and I was sore. Then I really didn’t want to stretch, it hurt! I was less flexible and it was discouraging, but I made myself go through a really thorough stretch a few days ago and like magic, my body felt so much better. I was melting away the fuzz!!

Today, there was still some lingering tightness (fuzz)  in the back of my legs especially, and I wasn’t really enjoying downward dog at all. I thought about skipping on to some other pose, forgetting sun salutations completely. I thought about how much it sucked that this hurt so bad. I thought about how annoying it was that my body felt fine two weeks ago and how stupid it was that slacking a bit could result in so much pain.

Then suddenly I thought to myself, “You’re making this more difficult than it needs to be. In fact, you’re making it rather unpleasant!”So I switched around my inner narrative to “Man, this feels amazing. Stretching feels so good” I tried to really relax and let my breath carry away the resistance and tension in my legs. I kept repeating to myself affirmations about how good it felt, and drawing my attention to what parts did feel good and suddenly, it did!

By piddleville cc by 2.0
By piddleville cc by 2.0

Hanging in an upside down V with my butt up in the air, heels flat on the ground suddenly felt amazing! It was a good pain, just a gentle burning, the kind that fills you with endorphins (like eating spicy food or other slightly masochistic pleasures). I started to really enjoy myself!

Do bear in mind that this wasn’t actual pain I was experiencing. Just tightness and discomfort that needed to be stretched out. Actual pain in your body is a signal that something is wrong, and you need to honor that, and be gentle with your body.

The rest of my practice was wonderful. I started to really appreciate and enjoy the strength and flexibility in my body that was buried underneath that mental resistance. Surrendering completely to the moment, I felt my power and energy coursing through my body. This was in sharp contrast to how I felt a few minutes before hand as I dragged myself out of bed, wishing I could just sleep for another 10 hours.

It was just another beautiful reminder as to the power of my thoughts. They shape my reality completely. I should know this by now, but it’s so easy to forget. To get swept away, feeling powerless, when really, we have complete control of our reaction in every moment. The moment we switch our thinking from ‘This is hard! This sucks!’ to ‘This is awesome! I can do this, this feels great!” we invite in a sense of ease and grace that actually makes it awesome.

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