Is this yoga or confession.. fitness or escape?

How do you deal with stress?

I hear this all the time, “yoga helps me deal with stress…”  or “it gives me some time to myself” “it clears my head”

Yep, they’re all right, they’re all legit, but is this a confession?  A time to just go to a place to escape our life? To reset?  Then return back to our life, habits, and ways?  Perhaps with some clarity, some new tools.  Remembering to breath, or to keep your back straight, to be present… and what if we can’t make time to decompress, then what?  I know in my case I would become a complete basket case or, in some circles… an aggressive “A-hole”. My mind would be so unclear I’d think  “A” stood for Amazing.

The partner work in martial arts is not a fight, it can be a simulation, but there’s more to partner practice than sparring.  It’s a way to eliminate stress while in the middle of stress.  To truly empower yourself with the tools to handle stress, chaos, resistance, change… to teach the nervous system to adapt and learn in real time as life is happening.  It could be sparring, or it could just be performing a task while another physical or psychological presence is in the space.  I mean do you have to really learn to deal with stress in a peaceful room on a mat while everyone is relaxing together, or remember to breath while a voice is always reminding you to breath?

How about balance?  We can build balance by poses, or conditioning, but you rarely have to keep your balance until your balance is challenged.   Standing on one leg is a total challenge for me.  I have the grace of a tumbleweed on redbull, and the focus of a chihuahua in a shopping mall, so this is always illustrated to me in practice.  My body slowly learned to balance on it’s own… However, if you put another person near me to just give minimal resitance or distraction, I’m as stable as pizza on the tip of a sewing needle.

It’s that moment that you’re on one leg and you’re nailing it.  Then the teacher looks at you, says “good job” and you fall.  You were on stage at that moment, poof… a little stress, you’re out of the moment, and now we go from being a mighty oak to bambi on ice.

To slowly inoculate stress into practice is to build the tools to deal with resistance or stress in real time.   What if you could create a vacuum or a space that stress could never fill.  Just absorb it and move forward.  I hate to break it to you, but it’s much harder to get there in our petri dish of a yoga mat, controlling our environment and feeling that this is how we deal.

I’m not devaluing yoga practice.  I get my fix daily.  However, just think if we could use the time to open up more as well as to decompress and reset.  The yoga mat has, to many, become confession.   That’s not my style.  We can only control so much.

Think about it this way…

I’m sure we’ve all been told to “let it go”… the art of “letting go”  yeah.  amen… I’m sure right now above some of our toilets is some framed quote similar to this.  Yes.  Being a life long martial arts/yoga guy that’s lived in a lot of places, my life in Florida really illustrated the art of letting go as it is in a yoga and martial arts or “partner play” practice.

Imagine you’re home is cluttered, and your home is your mind or your life… powerful so far?   it’s time to let go of a few things.  We’ll start with the garage.  The yoga way would be to go through everything, place it in piles.  This pile is to donate, this is the old electronics pile, we should totally recycle that, this is the I don’t know pile… should I keep these college papers?  Hmm… wow there’s my old yearbook, and oh I should fix that… etc…   Now the garage is organized and things are ready to move from cluttered to “let it go”ed… many of us can get really deep into this and just say… “if I haven’t used it in a year I must not need it, give it away”.  That’s very freeing.

Then here comes the next level… Imagine while in the middle of doing all of this, remind you that you’re in FL… it’s summer it’s hot, and now you have to evacuate because the inevitable hurricane is coming.  You come back and your garage is cleaned out… even the roof and door are gone.   This is the other part of letting go in a moment that you can’t control.  Turning your efforts towards rebuilding, helping your neighbors, being adaptable.  Perhaps now is the opportunity to turn that garage into a dojo, or a music studio.  The practice of knowing what nature is capable of, from catastrophe to opportunity, is also understanding our nature as human beings.

This is part of the balancing act of the “Path”…  personal practice and self discipline, then integrating into the community and nature itself, if we don’t honor this we build a self centered delusional idea that we can for some reason “control” nature. That’s not gonna end well.

I say this out of a slight concern I see in the yoga community.  It will always work itself out it always does.  To unify mind and body is the concept here, however, in a practice that was developed in a time where there was strong community, the unity among others was strong.  Now is the time we need communities more than ever.  Mainly because now we don’t need community at all if we don’t want it.  Honestly I could stay in my warehouse and start an online business, have my food delivered, set up direct deposit, and just do yoga all day all night and never leave.  in some ways, and on some days that sounds like a dream come true.

This is why community is important.  This is why service is needed.  This is why in every yoga class, we should turn to someone and help them or spot them or work with them.  Now cue martial arts class.  There will rarely be a moment in a martial arts class that you will not have to engage with someone.  Spar them?  nope.  Scream “grab my arm”  or “come at me!!!”…. not really.  It’s just that moment where we were all about just clearing our head and getting our workout on, then we have to hold a pad for someone and just stand there and serve them for a sec, thus ask their name, perhaps have a moment of awkwardness while we learn the technique, or help them out as they move through their awkwardness or struggles.  Service, connection, community.  Oh yeah, they’re probably gonna touch you too.  I love jujitsu and grappling work, because they’re actually going to lay on top of you.  Hi… what’s you’re name?