“Close your eyes. Now notice, where in your body are you holding tension that you can release?”
That was the cue my yoga instructor called, prompting me to get curious about what was happening physically as I transitioned into Warrior 2. I softened the space between my eyes and unclenched my jaw. I relaxed my shoulders away from my ears and made the conscious effort to deepen my breath. And then, with that freed up energy, I sank further into the pose.
My thighs burned and my abs engaged in a more involved way, but even as those parts of my body worked harder, I felt strong and capable. I knew that if I continued to take the class one breath at a time, setting my focus on the present pose, I could dive deeper into my practice.
I carried that question in my mind for the rest of the hour as we flowed in and out of the grounding, balancing, and opening sequences. Even as we settled into Savasana, I took inventory of the places where I was holding on and tightening up for no necessary reason – and I noticed where I could create more space and experience the pose more powerfully if I simply let go.
Then, I rolled up my mat and went about my day.
Although, the cue seemed to go with me everywhere I went. I started wondering, where, in my relationships, thoughts, habits, and life, was I holding on to tension that I could release? In what areas was I overcomplicating, anticipating, and making things harder than they needed to be?
And beyond that, what would be possible if I let go?
I began to make an intentional effort to identify the times that I was gripping onto tension without purpose. I noticed as my mind started to wander to past experiences, wishing that I’d said or handled things differently. I became aware of the times in which thoughts of the future consumed my mind. I recognized familiar dwelling notions and anticipatory emotions, and I paid attention to how they felt as they settled within my body.
From there, I committed to practicing. Not perfecting. Practicing. The same way I did each time I stepped onto my mat. I decided that I would choose to let go of tension that wasn’t serving me, and that I would instead focus my energy elsewhere.
What I found was that focusing my energy elsewhere almost always meant focusing my energy on the present moment. Freeing myself from obsessing over past events and overthinking potential future outcomes allowed me to sink deeper into my life as it’s occurring. To do the best I can with where I am.
The significance of the suggestion to notice unnecessary stress and to let it go was an epiphany as it both simplified and amplified my life simultaneously. Only once I became settled into my current state with acceptance and mindfulness over resistance and rigidity, did the opportunity to move more meaningfully into the moment become present.
Acknowledging where I held tension and constriction in my body and thoughts both on and off the mat opened up the possibility for me to recognize that each pose, conversation, experience, and feeling is an invitation to ground down and meaningfully root into life as it is happening right now.
Close your eyes. Notice, where are you holding tension that you can release?