A few weeks ago I was at a networking event for executive women when I heard a phrase that I haven’t heard for a while (it wasn’t a yoga term…!).
As everyone was going around the room introducing themselves with the customary name, job, etc. a few of the women explained they were “in transition.” The energy dynamic around this term was fascinating.
Every time someone said they were “in transition,” everyone else around the room would offer their congratulations and get all excited. Questions like “what’s next?” and “how are you doing?” would follow. To be “in transition” was far more exciting then to be the executive vice president of another defense contractor.
And yet, I got the feeling that beneath all that excitement for being “in transition,” there still lingered the fear and uncertainty of the future. Inherently, to be “in transition” is to not know. The excitement exuding from the fellow, safely-employed individuals was part awe, part jealousy, part “good for you, it’s not for me.”
To not know is an incredibly vulnerable place to be. It’s a scary place. And it’s full of growth and learning if you remain open to all the possibilities.
The movement of transitions
This experience had me thinking more about “transition.” Way back when I started this whole blog, one of the things I really wanted to write about was how to live calmly in the midst of moving, because moving was(is) so much a part of my life. I recognized that moving always causes me a fair bit of anxiety and it’s a time when I need to be super diligent with my self-care strategies so I can stay sane.
In times of uncertainty, when I’ve been in transition between homes, my sense of center could no longer be defined by a building. Instead of looking outside of me, I had to rely on strength from within, even if I didn’t know I had it.
To let go of your trust in what you’ve built around you and be willing to give it up to a greater divine plan (call it whatever you want) out of your control is the ultimate act of releasing attachment and dissolving ego. It requires a great deal of faith and trust that the transition is your teacher.
To step willingly into transition is courageous. It’s walking straight into the fire (like Daenerys, for all my GoT fans :)).
Transitions in Asana
In yoga, we like to work from the outside in. All this transition talk is nice and all, but it’s heavy and hard. To take a few practice rides through transition, we look to the body, asana, and movement as our training wheels.
In your asana practice there are LOTS of transitions. The beauty of a vinyasa practice is the transitions themselves, most famous of them Chatarunga Dandasana. Fittingly, Chatarunga is HARD. It requires intense focus, strength, breath, and listening.
Unfortunately, many of us blow straight through the transitions without taking the time to savor the teachings. We get the alignment down (or we think we get the alignment down) and it’s easy enough to just go through the motions. We stop listening to what our body is actually telling us (this hurts my shoulders), we stop consciously engaging all the little, subtle muscular actions that support our alignment, and our mind is focused on the end result — Downdog — rather than the journey.
The best is when students automatically start their Chatarunga transition before I’ve even cued it and are unaware that Chatarunga wasn’t the intended transition at all. Switching up the transitions is not only an exercise in engaging new muscles, but also in priming the mind to get comfortable with ALL the uncertainty.
To be in transition is to be learning and growing — building strength physically, mentally, emotionally.
Getting good at transitions
How do you become more graceful at navigating the transitions in your practice and in your life?
- First, let go of your need to be good at it. To be in transition is to invite failure. Something inevitably won’t work out or go as expected. This is where the ego will rebel and rise up and the Self must step in to bat it back down. Allowing failure as an acceptable outcome throughout transition will make it easier to move through the chaos with grace.
- Set intentions as you embark upon your transition. Starting a yoga session is a beautiful macro-transition in and of itself, creating a boundary between what you’ve been doing and what is yet to come. This is why it’s nice to set intentions at the beginning of practice, so that you have a purpose for what you’re doing on the mat. You know why you’re on your mat and what you’re doing your Chatarungas for. As big transitions loom closer, take some time to set meaningful intentions. When you start to lose it, and you will at some point, your intention will remind you where to refocus your attention to bring you back into balance.
- Get extra diligent about your self-care. If you don’t have go-to self-care strategies, it’s time to start. Pick one small thing you can commit to every day that will make you feel loved and cared for. It could be anything from taking 10 breaths, meditating for 5 minutes, practicing 1 yoga posture, taking a walk, rolling your feet while you brush your teeth, or giving yourself an oil self-massage. No matter how much time you don’t have in your life, you must MAKE time to take care of yourself. Otherwise, you’re staring burnout in the face. Burnout will bring on a whole new phase of “transition” that you don’t want to be in.
- Practice being in the moment. Notice how green the grass is right where you are. Actually smell the roses. Listen to the birds chirping in the morning. Feel the rain on your skin. Be grateful for the beauty of the natural world, the cosmic mystery, and your presence in all of it.
- Most importantly listen to your body and your breath. Your body will tell you when something is off, but you have to be adept at picking up the subtle signals. Your breath changes before you are even aware that your emotional body is changing, so being aware of the breath will help you start to see when things are getting out of hand. When you need to get grounded, feel your feet on the Earth, give yourself a little massage to feel the touch of your own hand, and take deep belly breaths.
Savor the transitions
The beauty of transition is that we’re truly in it all the time. And if you think about it, we’ve already mastered the art of moving gracefully from one thing to the next. This is how we get through our day! Granted, some of us are more graceful then others, but regardless, each day is a transition of the sun and the moon. Each breath is a transition of the inhale and exhale.
To be in transition is to be alive. Once you wake up, the secret to maintaining that vitality is balance.