Can you guess how the headstand picture relates to change and yoga? Change is hard, many of us fear it and struggle when faced with saying goodbye to something. Changes happen, whether you want them or not. Even if the change is one of the worst things you could imagine you will be ok, one day. The flip side of change is embracing newness, transformation and saying hello to something different. Read on to find out more about how yoga can help you with both. There are four things people struggle with: leaving the old, letting go, coping with uncertainty, joy and the ongoing nature of change.  This blog shows how yoga can help you in times of change so you can move towards your future.

Goodbye, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodnight

Usually we fear change and cling to old patterns and security. We cling to loves, homes, relationships, routines, jobs, making a bad decision or visions of ourselves. Fear can be paralysing, it can hold us tight to indecision and numbness.

Fear: How can yoga help you cope with fear?

Fear and aggression can be seen as opposites, through yoga you learn to stand your ground. Don’t run, don’t fight. This applies to both the pose and the emotion. Mountain pose is an excellent one for feeling fear, learning to be present with feelings rising and falling, cantered and keeping your eyes on the horizon. You can try an in-depth yoga nidra and do savasana with a weighted eye pillow. This can help your mind to soften back and make space for new feelings of calm to replace the feelings of anxiety.

Breaking eggs to make an omelette

Breaking things, especially if in some ways they are great is very hard. The Hindu god Shiva is the lord of destruction. Seen as a black figure stamping on tiny humans, with an angry face and red rimmed eyes, he is somewhat terrifying. It is easy to see Shiva as something to be avoided, but a deeper look at his role is being a destroyer for new life and transformation to occur in the ‘you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs’ tradition.

Grief: How can yoga help you face breaking something?

Breaking things is hard, and involves a process of letting go, whether that letting go is of a vision of yourself and some part of your life that you once loved. This involves grief. Consider what you grieve. Yoga can help you in this process by coming back to rest into the movement of your breath. When you feel grief, loss and uncertainty you can come back to your breathing and listen deeply. Each out breath is the death of a breath, but it is needed to breath in again. Yogic breath awareness can help you become clearer and more truthful with yourself. Hear the sounds, feel the physical movements and then go deeper into the sensations of the hope and energy of the in breath and the letting go and releasing of the outbreath. Find your balance, ability to release gracefully in your breath.

Finding the ground in choppy waters

Being at sea, feeling the ground slipping away beneath your feet, having the rug pulled from under you, these are all phrases relating to feeling unsettled. How do you feel settled when something you thought was forever isn’t? How do you cope with not knowing if you will be alone forever or where you’re going to live? Wanting to give up your job or change home? Seeing your children grow away or your loved one become seriously ill? People love to be scared at roller coasters and horror films (neither for me, thanks), at times people seem to enjoy being angry and stoking the flames of their fury and welling up with righteous indignation, but who welcomes feeling confused and unsettled? So, let’s start. If we knew how everything would turn out life would be pretty boring. We’d cook the same meal every night and never try new food, wear the same clothes and meet only the same people if we didn’t want some uncertainty. We need a certain amount of change and unsettlement to feel good, we flourish on it. The moment when a ball comes flying towards you and not knowing how you will react is exciting. Sometimes beautiful things happen, other times you get smacked in the face and get a black eye (see lovely mother son picture below). I didn’t enjoy the day of pain, but since then it’s been a lot of fun: I’ve never had a black eye before. I’m enjoying the newness…. and the fact it will pass.

Instability: How can yoga help you when you feel ungrounded?

Yoga is a great friend to feeling ungrounded, and the answer is in the first sentences of the paragraph above. It’s in the feet. When we pay attention to how our feet meet the floor, how to get a feeling of connection to the space below the floor or activate our arches we are waking up the feet and our connection to the floor. This is excellent at helping you be more grounded. Think of tree pose where we have to get ok with swaying, wobbling, taking our foot down before we want to – this is life in a pose. We have to be with changes, allow them to get us off balance, so we can re-find the ground. I think the best tree pose is moving, that way you know you’re growing.

Praise the lord change is coming

In life it often necessary to transform and change. Sometimes we greet this with welcome relief. You might find your inner risk taker gets excited – however much you love security ‘the risk taker’ is in all of us. You might start with hints of feeling ok, then find pockets of optimism, that gradually become a steady openness; less a heady zoomy feeling and more of a pervasive openness that sits with you like an old friend. Once you have grown your roots you might find joy. If it doesn’t happen, no worries… some changes ask more of us than others, and most important is to be real.

‘Praise the lord, change is coming’

Hidden Figures (great film about black women in the space race film)

Joy: How can yoga help you embrace and celebrate change?

Embracing change requires courage, openness and flexibility. You can think of these as emotional qualities, but they are just as much physical qualities that live in the body. Our flexibility is mental and physical. Too much emotional flexibility and we can’t find our own truth or find our own path. Too much physical flexibility and our joints become unstable and we tend to lack strength. Too little flexibility and we lose our openness to the possibilities of being present and adaptive. To little emotional flexibility and we fly off the handle at tiny things and lack an ability to feel our emotions. Yoga can help you find the emotional qualities you need via the physical qualities you. In plank pose we often focus on strengthening, in forward bends we often focus on flexibility, physically and that brings the emotional realm with it.

Like a breath of fresh air

Whatever you feel now, it will change. Sad and bad feelings go, with time and enough yoga. Whatever joy you experience know it also will change, it may wax, it may wane. There is a freedom when we accept this. A freedom from trying to escape things that are hard, a freedom from seeking pleasure too doggedly. We find more of our internal balance.

Freedom Day: How can yoga help me accept the cyclical nature of living?

The main picture of a beach headstand exemplifies the qualities needs to move forwards. It was taken on holiday in Cornwall this Summer. In the pose there is a direction towards a full headstand, but at any point the direction might change. The sands beneath my arms are continually shifting, so it is an ongoing experience of adapting my body’s movements to the movements of the environment around me. I can decide to go further into it or release down, adjusting my expectations to ‘what is’. It is the perfect picture for how we meet change: going into it, finding instability, resting back and re-finding stability to grow again. I might lose my balance or a wave might come. Ultimately, we settle in to emotional balance through enjoying the ups and staying present with the downs. This happens through yoga too: in all fours we arch up into cat pose and dip into cow pose. We fluctuate, flow and move. In meditation we find a quieter space beyond our emotions and physical body. When you embrace change you allow yourself to choose, and to choose what is right for you. By making small choices that feel right we can land upon and bigger more transformative right. Come back to your breath, feel the in breath of hope and action, and the outbreath of acceptance and quietness. Your breath is with you, always, it is your life, and in every moment,  it can bring you back to the most powerful life lesson: breath in, breath out.

Yoga can help you say goodbye, break old habits, find the ground then joy is future, and one day feel that breath of fresh air. July marks the beginning Hajj season, an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. Hajj means ‘to go out, heading towards a great aim’. What is your great aim just now? Allow yoga, breathing and mediation to support you in the changes you need to move towards your ‘great aim’. I wish you stability, change, choice, and a movement towards your ‘great aim’.