Embodying flow: saying ‘yes’ to life in all its complexity
Allowing life’s challenges and unexpected turns to move to us and through us is the practice of living in flow. By Lauren Bloxham
Our yoga practice offers us the time, space, and structure in which to find, explore and experience a sense of flow. To flow from asana to asana, or to connect with the more subtle flow within the pose, to observe the ebb and flow of breath. In meditation, we observe the comings and goings of the mind; the fluctuations, the peace, and the thoughts that upset the peace. We become curious about the emotions that arise, and practice presence, however challenging, for the experience of being human. We may even become skilled and strong in meditation and asana, finding comfort and grace, coming to the still point of balance in physically challenging poses, and throughout our meditation. It’s very natural when we’re skilled to believe we have ‘arrived’, that we are accomplished even… and perhaps, within the safety of the class, with the boundaries of the mat, and of the hour ahead, this is true. But how does this practice translate to real life, and to daily living off the mat?
Remembering that our yoga practice, whether it’s self-practice, or led practice, is just that – practice. Building strong bodies and spacious compassionate minds is the practice of creating and maintaining the structure and conditions in which our life force, our prana, can flow freely and without the resistance of a tense body or mind. We’re practicing for living. We practice in order to embrace the flow of life as it moves to us and through us without resistance. We practice in order to navigate the day-to-day challenges we face, curveballs thrown our way, shocks, traumas, losses, and gains. Whilst we can plan and structure our lives to feel as though we are in control, life has a way of teaching us that there are greater forces at work which have the power to knock us off course. The practice of building a strong body in order to feel ‘in control’ or meditating to ‘clear the mind’ meanwhile forcing holds, pushing beyond our limits, or attempting to deny or diminish thoughts is really the practice of resistance and force. It is the practice of power over the situation.
The practice of building a strong body in which to allow flow, however, becomes more embracing of life’s deep channels and grooves. It becomes the practice of acceptance at where we are or what has come our way, of saying ‘yes’ to life within us and outside of us, exactly as it is, however complex or challenging that might be. Our strength then becomes more yielding, taking on unknown forms and new directions as life moves us.
At times though, life’s challenges can feel like being caught in a strong current, or like we’re struggling to come up for air, which can trigger the urge to fight against, or resist what’s happening. With our minds fixed, we can exhaust ourselves trying to stay on course, when in fact what’s required is for us to relax and let go. Those of us who’ve spent any time around natural bodies of water will have learned the life-saving advice to avoid swimming against strong currents.
To relax and float to conserve energy and to assess as we do. Some currents will literally return us to shore, and some require us to divert our path; neither are the direction we thought we were going in. Embracing the flow of life can be terrifying; it can feel counter intuitive to our survival at times. But if we can take lessons from the natural world, and from our practices, we understand that resistance can be futile. Whether we’re trying to resist the flow of thoughts, or the flow of emotions, all we’re really doing is stifling the flow of life within us. However much practice we’ve done, all we’ve really done is better equip ourselves to ride the currents of life. So, say ‘yes’ to life’s ebbs and flows, to its deep currents and trenches, take a deep breath and say yes to the life that is flowing to us and through us; it may not be what we hoped for or expected, but it is living and this life, whatever it appears to be, is precious.
Our breath can teach us so much about our state of being and coming to the breath as practice can be a valuable guide. As we say yes to our breath, we allow ourselves to be breathed, our minds becoming curious passengers to the innate wisdom and life-force of
the body. Sitting or laying comfortably invite your awareness to connect to the moving breath. Breathing in, say ‘yes to breathing in’, breathing out, say ‘yes to breathing out’. Give yourself permission to breathe. Repeat for a few rounds then notice where this sense of allowing leads. Maybe the shoulders drop. Maybe the breath moves more deeply into the belly. Maybe the jaw unclenches, and the feet settle more firmly on the earth. Maybe a yawn, maybe watering eyes, all just ways the body lets go of held tension and life finds a way of living through us more efficiently. Give yourself permission to allow the challenges, and to allow the unexpected without trying to control or change anything. This is the practice of embodying flow.
Find Lauren Bloxham at: blackdogliving.com or on Instagram @blackdogliving
First published in November 2009, OM Yoga magazine has become the most popular yoga title in the UK. Available from all major supermarkets, independents and newsstands across the UK. Also available on all digital platforms.