Tadasana: the power of standing still
Sometimes all we need is to stand still. By Suki Eleuterio
I will always remember the priceless piece of advice imparted to me from my yoga teacher that stays with me to this day: “Yoga is a practice; it’s better to practice 10 minutes a day than to not practice at all.”
Whenever my yoga mat starts gathering dust I find myself thinking about those words. How do I feel when I’m not practicing yoga? The truth is I feel stuck, I feel stressed, I feel only half alive. Yet these yoga slump weeks — the time we spend rushing through life, going through the motions on autopilot, never taking time to jump on the mat — can easily turn into yoga slump years.
Last year, during the pandemic while most people were finally finding the time for yoga at home, I found myself standing still. I wallowed on the sofa and ate popcorn. My sciatic pain flared to new heights. I practiced no yoga at all, and I am ashamed to say it, part of me actually enjoyed it. Yes, even the yoga teachers of the world can go a year without getting on the mat! Now, to be fair, I was also heavily pregnant and then in barely-awake postpartum mode for much of the year. But this yoga slump taught me so much.
In yoga we stand in Tadasana, or mountain pose, with our feet hip distance apart and our palms facing forward. For many years I thought of this pose as pretty unnecessary and would pause momentarily in the asana before jumping into something else. After all, who needs to just stand still in Tadasana? What does it even mean?
Through this pandemic, I gained a new perspective on that vast mountain, or Tadasana, of knowledge that was inside of me. Standing still taught me that there was power in doing nothing, slowing down and going within.
These are three lessons I took from not practicing yoga and having one of the most motionless years of my life.
1. Shadow work and unraveling the knots
For many of us, the pandemic might have been the first time in our lives when we could honestly stop. The hamster wheel stopped moving and suddenly all of us were left to truly look at ourselves in the mirror.
It’s scary to look in the mirror sometimes and I found myself digging into my past. I decided to dive into reading and one of my friends recommended the book, ‘Happy Money’ by Ken Honda. Through the stillness, I realised I really needed to do some work around my money mindset and money blocks. This is where I bumped into my shadow.
Popularised by famed 20th-century psychologist Carl Jung, ‘shadow work’ is the term given to the unconscious part of your personality that you may have suppressed as a child. It’s the darker, shameful, painful part of our existence that we may have difficulty expressing.
During my time off the mat, I discovered that the avoidance I always felt around my finances really stemmed much further back than I realised. It came down to a time in middle school where I was made to feel dumb or helpless around math. This fear of numbers stuck with me into adulthood and it took slowing down for me to unravel this massive knot. Some things that came to light weren’t pretty but I would never have discovered them if I had been running.
Ask yourself: what emotions come up when I slow down and listen?
2. The power of surrender
The first time I took a yoga class I hated it because it wasn’t moving at a fast enough pace. The truth is I love to take action and I love to set and crush my goals. Through my perfectionism and go-getting spirit I have found myself in burnout mode time and time again. This past year I spent time immersing myself in the practice of surrender.
The truth about surrender is it challenges us to let go of everything we know so that we can truly step into who we were meant to be. The ego wants you to believe that you are attached to all these labels: to mother, to wife, to career woman, to your age. Yet you know deep down you are more than these things. In the practice of surrender you can release the need for control or for identity, or for attachment.
Allowing is such a powerful lesson. During the pandemic I asked myself:
How can I allow more? How can I feel more? How can I surrender to this? Times of change can bring up such uncertainty and fear. You can wallow in the fear or you can choose a different path. I chose the path of letting it be.
Standing in Tadasana, the beautiful mountain, teaches me the power of surrender and allowing. The mountain is so powerful in its stillness and silence. It does not need to force or push. It does not need to hustle or control. It needs only to be.
Ask yourself: How can I practice surrender?
3. If your body wants to move, let it move
As the spring turned to summer and the summer faded into fall, I realised this was the longest I had ever been without practicing yoga. My bones felt it. My muscles felt it. But most of all I felt it in my heart. It felt like I was carrying a heavy bag of emotions across my shoulders. After I gave birth to my second daughter, I slowly started to re-introduce some movements, I did some light stretching and I started receiving weekly massages. As my muscles started to re-awaken I found myself yearning for a new kind of movement.
When I was a child I was a ballerina. I fell in love with ballet the first time I stepped into the dance studio. The soft, elegant movements have such a sweet place in my heart. During the pandemic, I suddenly found myself wanting to do a pas de bourrée in my kitchen. So I indulged in new movements. I listened to my body and let it move the way it wanted to move.
Sometimes I would go outside with my daughters and we would just turn on music and bounce around. Other times I found myself wanting to do movement more like Tai Chi and Qi Gong, practices I have never studied before. Still, I just allowed myself to move however I needed to move.
Then, one day, I walked down the hallway and from the corner of my eye I spotted my old yoga mat. I stared at it for a while like you stare at a long-lost friend, smiling as I knew it was calling my name. I knew at that moment it was time to get back on the mat.
But I am so grateful for the year I spent standing still.
Ask yourself: How does my body want me to move?