Life can change unexpectedly. For almost everyone on earth, the world changed on a dime last March, seemingly overnight. The effects of COVID have us continuously adapting to its multitude and magnitude of changes. It leaves no room for negotiation, for planning, or for sustaining a sense of safety and certainty. As the days pass, time takes on a different meaning. And as our lives unfold in the midst of uncertainty, we experience our vulnerability to the many forces beyond our control. Indeed, we slowly and more fully understand that control is an illusion and that learning to accept and adapt are invaluable and necessary strengths.
The image of Vrksansana, tree pose, comes to mind when I think of the physical embodiment of strength and grounding. A few days before the 5th anniversary of B.K.S Iyengar’s passing last summer, I awoke from a clear and impactful dream in which he visited bearing a message of healing for me; he was going to give me the asana that I needed to practise for my overall health and wellbeing. Standing together barefoot on the grass, we were surrounded by white pines, spruce, maples and birch trees. Just as he was about to name the asana, I naturally went into Vrksansana, tree pose. He chuckled and said, “this is the pose I was going to tell you to practise!” On that August day I was profoundly humbled to receive his message through my dream, or as Freud coined it, the royal road to the unconscious. I continue to consistently practise this pose, exploring it wholly to develop a deeper understanding of its personal meaning for me. I have discovered that this pose has even greater value during challenging times.
Vrksasana takes us home to our center, to our sense of grounding and stillness. Balancing on one foot informs us that we are able to remain focused and steady in the midst of any turbulence. As we remain steadfast in the pose, the gaze is soft, and the mind is steady and quiet with a single-minded focus. While balancing on one foot, we can feel the simultaneous action of lifting up fully. We actively and fully extend and lift the trunk and arms, allowing us to access the spine and core. Mind, body and breath are balanced, and any frayed elements are pulled in and knitted together into the center of one’s being. Vrksasana is a beautiful pose; it provides one with the wonderful experience of remaining grounded, centered, still and aligned in the present moment.
The art of remaining present in the midst of whatever is happening around you is both amazing and challenging. Phrases like “be here now” and “be in the moment” convey this important message. Learning to remain centered in the present moment ensures that we aren’t missing out on life experiences - big and small - as they occur. COVID has reinforced the understanding that unexpected happenings are simply grand teaching opportunities. In addition, these awakened moments of presence give meaning to our lives. Consciously attending to these mindful and precious moments successfully counterbalances the effects of our constant “monkey mind” which transports us from the past to the future and back again with very little time actually spent landing in between, in the now. The present moment is truly all we ever have.
In simple times and in more complex ones, Yoga and Mindfulness help us to develop new attitudes, engage in invaluable practises, refine and utilize powerful coping skills, and reap many positive outcomes. It is extremely important and beneficial to create the time and space to practice yoga, mindfulness and breath work as well as engage in creative activities in order to practice remaining centered and present. As we refine our ability to be here now, we can more easily and successfully access our inner point of stillness and stability, and maintain our sense of balance, even when life turns on a dime.