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How to Maintain Your Yoga Practice During a Major Life Transition

“Impermanence is good news. Without impermanence, nothing would be possible. With impermanence, every door is open for change. Impermanence is an instrument for our liberation.” – Thich Nhat Hahn

Sudden and unexpected changes can happen to all of us at times when the flow of life is going along swimmingly well. Calm waters can turn to swirling river rapids in a moment, without warning. Change can show up in the form of a job loss, divorce, illness or dis-ease, loss of a loved one, an unexpected move, and the list goes on. We all strive for harmony and a peaceful existence as if we were preprogrammed that these traits are the benchmarks of a successful life, well lived. But life is often and frequently interrupted by sudden changes that can happen to any of us at any moment, leaving us feeling off balance.

For those of us that have found a regular breath-work practice like yoga, meditation, tai-chi or chi gong, maintaining a regular practice when life has turned everything upside down can derail even the most disciplined person. For those that have yet to experience the myriad benefits of a regular practice, it is often in times of complete life chaos that we decide to embark upon one of these life-changing paths of self-discovery.

Recent events in my own life put my seventeen-year daily Bhakti yoga practice to the test. The holidays sailed by with abundance in many forms; family, gatherings with friends and new projects at work to look forward to – projects that had been part of long standing relationships, with likable clients who really wanted me as a part of their team.

Suddenly, the owner of the property where I lived; a lovely guest house, with an ocean view toward Malibu, a very stern 92 year-old woman, who had lived there for 62 years, cornered me on the stairs to the laundry room the day after New Years and told me my mom, who was visiting, had to go! She said she had rented the property to one person, not two.

“When is your mom leaving?”, she asked bluntly? Now mom, at 88, had planned to return to a relative’s home on Maui after the holidays. The next day, we received a call from family, stating that she was not able to return to the island, as they suddenly had to sell the property! All this may not seem to be too much to handle, especially for the fact that I have moved forty-eight times in fifty years. Suddenly, my mom was on the verge of being homeless. Her only income being Social Security, at an amount that only slightly covers her heart medicine and food, there was not anything left for housing. Fortunately, I thought to myself, at least I have a good job, with a secure company, a contract through the end of the year. We would just simply have to move in together again and find a new place to call home.

Then, the next “sudden change” event in the series of mini- tsunamis happened…I lost my job. The details are really irrelevant to this article, but the fact was I suddenly found myself without any income, needing a place to live and one that would also accommodate the needs of an elderly parent.
This series of events showed me just how easily and quickly anyone of us could go from perceived security to being homeless in an instant. The events that followed and people’s reactions to my newfound circumstances ranged from friends hiring me to do work and paying me double, to friends I thought were close to me, shunning me like a pariah. Having experienced three divorces in my life, the reaction people had, even those I thought I was close to, replicated that of how often this type of change leaves people feeling uncomfortable, at a loss for words and hoping what you just went through won’t penetrate their world, much like the recent measles outbreak at Disneyland, the perennially “happy” place!

It is at times of change and impermanence that we need our friends and family most, we need our yoga or other spiritual practices, our community to embrace us. We need to be and to feel loved, not shunned. We need hope and encouragement. We need simple acts of kindness to help us through the moments of uncertainty.

As I write this, it has been six weeks since I have had a regular paycheck. I was downtown today interviewing for a new client and at the end of the meeting, the man I had gone to meet with handed me a parking validation and said, here, this will save you $40.00! To me , his gesture felt like $400.00!
I was never so grateful to receive a little green validation ticket in my life. I thought of the many instances we take these things for granted, to the point of expectation. Many great “pearls” have been given to me through this massive transition and transformation and the gifts continue each day.

As an avid yogini, I found that indeed my yoga practice was the sustaining element in this sea of uncertainty. It was, and continues to be the glue that holds my life together, even in turbulent waters. These four yoga poses will surely help you set your course to calmer waters as you ride through the most difficult of life challenges:

1. Modified Fish Pose (Matsyasana) for loss. “Loss can cause intense grief. This pose helps to open the heart and the throat chakra to help you be able to express your true feelings. Leaving unexpressed grief or anger in the body can lead to more complications and dis-ease. Practice this pose to keep the energy channels open and receptive to the “new” which is right around the corner”.
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2. Changes in the Home: Downward Facing Frog Pose (Adho Mukha Mandukasana)
“Any change in living conditions can leave you feeling uprooted and zap your energy causing interrupted sleep patterns. This version of Frog Pose helps alleviate the stress that accumulates in the hips and lower back from worry and fear”.
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3. Relationship Issues: Half Lord of the Fishes, aka “The Better” Half Twist Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
“Relationship transitions make us lose our footing. This can result from a love relationship or a job loss.
This twisting pose helps you keep your eye on the ground, while maintaining your own wholeness. You need strong roots, a flexible spine, and a wide-open heart—all of which help you balance time for YOURSELF, while you cultivate deeper intimate connections with YOU and others”.
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4. Career Change: Dolphin Pose (Makarasana)
“Career shifts bring in anxiety over new territories to master, grief from losing a past version of the self, and financial worries. This can strain all other relationships.
Dolphin pose requires a shift in perspective while maintaining a steady base for balance”.
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* With any yoga practice it is advised to find a great teacher to guide you through the poses safely! Please find a supportive teacher before trying these poses at home.

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