Be Flexible, But Not Too Much

Sometimes too much flexibility can be too much of a good thing. This is true in the case of my knees and hips, which after decades of yoga, have become over-flexed. Whether we are set in routine physical or mental patterns, the benefits of doing things the same way wear thin and over time can cause dullness or pain. Check out your own physical habits of sitting, moving, standing, etc. I started breaking the habit of sitting cross-legged on the floor in half-lotus. Instead, I sit with legs straight, ankles crossed, for part of my meditation time. This and other conscious moves throughout the day have “reversed” my knee pain.

If you sit on sofas or chairs that are too comfy or deep (especially if you are a woman and shorter than 5’5”), use cushions behind you, or better yet, switch to chairs that allow you to rest your feet on the ground. Don’t go all soft or collapsed in “couch potato” posture (asana). Vary how and where you sit. Make sure office chairs are best aligned to your computer or work station, and not causing undue neck or shoulder strain.  If you walk right foot first, aim for left foot first. My friends and students have reported great results from these littles shifts all week.

We can easily change or take care of the physical, or first level of consciousness, which the Kabbalists call “Nefesh.” Moving up the ladder to effect mental or emotional change may prove more challenging. Try this one today:

1.Assume your best, seated posture. Rather than breathing in and out using your usual technique, go for something deeper, wider, longer, or simply practice awareness of the breath. Allow the breath to breathe you for a few minutes.

2.To change a habit of mind, reflect on a mental loop or tape, a way that you think about yourself in some context. Common examples include: “I’m no good at…” (unworthiness), “I wish I was more like…” (comparison), or “I can’t do that/I’ll never change/I always fail at…” (fear/fear of success or failure). Give it space to speak and then guide it along with a gentle question or reminder, as in, “Oh, so you feel this way now? What about the time when (recall a positive event that disputes your failure theory)?“ Drastic surgery to excise negative thoughts or tapes, or ignoring them by shoving them into a box, usually doesn’t work. One exception is in using the ruthless yogic practice of mentally “cutting the negative thought at its root.” This can be very helpful in breaking a negative addiction, like smoking. You refuse to go there, or even think about it for a minute. 

3. Finally, let go of thoughts that have come up and your efforts to change or redirect them. Dwell in wordless essence or Source.  You can bring yourself to Source by letting go of as many judgments and identifications as you possibly can. If need be, listen to the sound of your humming heart or use a mantra or visual tool to help. 

Because tonight is the Jewish Holy Day Yom Kippur, the day of At-One-Ment, put last years’ “atonements” to rest. Vow to live more fully from Essence and less reactively from physical and mental habits that have worn out their welcome.