Moving from Winter to Spring is a seasonal transition I enjoy as it represents growth and presents the opportunity to rediscover what the outdoors has to offer after a cold Winter. Winter and Spring are vastly different moving from the beautiful snow with cold short days to the expansion of flora and fauna and longer lighter days. Although the official date of Spring is not quite here, we have sprung the clocks forward (unless you live in Arizona of course!) and the evenings are longer, granting us the opportunity to slow down and start to think about what lies ahead.
Photo by Trenton Stroh
Whether you have been to a yoga class where the teacher gives you the opportunity to set an intention for your practice or you chose to practice meditation or yoga at home and set one yourself, I invite you explore the intention of “transitions” this time of year. This is an intention you don’t even need a practice to contemplate, you can apply it to your everyday life letting the spirit of yoga infiltrate your daily activities and lifelong journeys. If you decide to invite this appreciation for transitions into your life there is a chance you will think about this intention every time the season changes and it will give you the fuel needed to embrace the changes that come along with it.
The reason I love this one so much is because I have had a special and humbling experience with it. It was an intention I used in one of the first classes I ever taught and now carries so such meaning l revisit it often. After a class interwoven with this intention (coincidentally it was a Winter to Spring transition) one of the attendees approached me after class. She was not a regular and I had just introduced myself to her before the class, therefore I was expecting a brief exchange about the program and nothing more.
To my surprise she explained that an entire class where she was invited to think about transitions at a time in her life when she was going through a significant transition herself created an opportunity to grow and reflect within that hour she had on her mat. She continued that she gained valuable insight she was going to take home with her and that it would influence the path that lay ahead for her. She further explained what she experienced not only resonated with her but allowed her to explore exactly what a transition meant to her at that point in time and provided clarity on a direction she had been having trouble contemplating going. She was not sure what motivated her to show up that day and believed it was the stars aligning or fate and was so thankful she came and without knowing it that morning ended up exactly where she needed to be. She then said I have shared too much…I am embarrassed and I should go before I get too emotional as tears began to pool in her eyes.
I offered a hug and at that moment she had no idea that what moved her in return moved me. It moved me in a way I cannot even put it into words. I walked out of class that day with tears of joy running down my face. It is situations like these you aspire to experience but do not expect to as an instructor since you put yourself out there never knowing if you will be humbled or humiliated in the process. Here I was new to the whole thing and just beaming with gratitude towards that person and overjoyed the practice helped someone who needed it. I knew Yoga helped others as it has helped me but I had not experienced in that way before, on the giving rather than receiving end.
I do not recall exactly what I spoke about that day in relation to transitions as I often base my intentions off of the yoga sutras then speak from personal experience or the heart in the moment depending on what I pick up from the room. Some days I go deeper than others on an intention depending on the feedback I receive by looking into the crowd and on this particular day, although I don’t recall the depth I gave the group I did give the most authentic version on myself as I always do and return I got the same from them, it was reciprocal that day.
Ok, now to the nuts and bolts of the topic at hand. What do transitions have to do with yoga, how do I apply to my yoga practice and my life. There are 2 thoughts I would like to focus on and each of those can be applied to both the physical practice of yoga and your mental capacity to perform the physical practice or relate to your life.
Nearly everything we do in life is a journey from point A to B, even mother nature transitions with the seasons. Most of these journeys we nearly do or experience on autopilot, for example we get up and get dressed and head out for the day. In rarer cases they are unique journeys such as a hike or a big project. For your physical practice, your journey from point A to point B might be a transition with the breath from chair pose (Utkatasana) to forward fold (Uttanasana) or downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Shvanasana) to Warrior I (Virabadrasana I). Your life is full of journeys that get you from one point to another but we rarely pay much attention to the time in-between point A and B rather, we focus in the start and the finish or the initial state and the goal but it is the journey and the growth we experience regardless of how frequently we do it that allows us to learn and develop over time.
Transition from chair to forward fold.
LEARN FROM THE PROCESS, FOCUS ON THE JOURNEY AND THE CHANGING EVENTS RATHER THAN THE GOAL OR END RESULT.
Here’s the thing if you pay attention during this time you will inevitably apply integrity to the journey and likely you will take away a whole new skill set. In your yoga practice your breath may start to guide your transitions and you may change them over time to become more eloquent or more efficient and in return you will see new progress and a new set of skills developed physically. On your next hike if you stop to admire your surroundings and listen to your body you might notice a new area or a new path. That big project may take new creative paths if we pause and listen and consider an alternate route to achieve the end result.
We do not always need to move so fast and paying attention to your transitions in yoga is the perfect place to play around with what it is like to pay attention to the time in-between and then take that new found ability with you. It is not necessary to practice yoga to get this benefit you can start applying it right now for instance notice what changes between winter and spring. Take it slow, pay attention appreciate it, and get better at your transitions over time.
A transition begins one way and after the transition the result is something else. For instance we begin with Winter then transition to Spring. We begin in Downward Facing Dog and end up in Warrior I. What you began with may change or transform and although each may be different each should be appreciated. Things or situations come and go, enjoy the arrival and departure of each as they each serve a purpose. Although you may prefer one thing over the other and that may be why a transition is needed you cannot have one without the other, both have a significant role in the learning process as well as present themselves as an opportunity to show gratitude.
A powerful quote from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali addresses this lesson.
“Its alright to have a beautiful face; its alright to have anything, as long as you don’t let these things bring you anxiety and fear. If they come to you, let them come; enjoy their presence. But when they go enjoy their departure too. When they come, they come alone, so allow them to go alone without losing your mind along with the external object. Past pleasures are painful because renewed cravings arise from the impressions they leave in the mind.”
Let these lessons guide your daily process and your practice if you choose to try them. What do transitions mean to you? Below are other Yogic perspectives that explore the topic of transitions. Please consider these thoughts or create your own as you contemplate what transitions mean to you. Take a moment to reflect back on some of the meaningful transitions you have experienced in your life. If you have thoughts on this topic I would love to hear them. Additional yogic perspectives on the topic of transitions:
On Embracing Transitions in Yoga And In Life (written by Joy Stone and published on Do You Yoga) https://www.doyou.com/on-embracing-transitions-in-yoga-and-in-life-85792/
The Space Between (written by Jason Crandell and published in Yoga Journal) https://www.yogajournal.com/uncategorized/space
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