In my still early yoga practice, one of the beauties of yoga, for me, lies in its marriage of “heart” and science. Sometimes the technical side can seem intimidating: Strewn throughout classes are often words like sacrum, lateral movement, inner spiral, and psoas. The lingo and precision can be daunting to a newbie, but it’s totally alluring, too. But what’s even lovelier about yoga is its mental effect: the head space that class leaves you with – that odd coupling of energy and calm that it brings with it – can be indescribable.
The other day I went to a class where the relationship between the two elements became clearer to me. The class included some sequences and holds that were seriously humbling. Among them was bakasana – crane pose – where you squat, put your knees on your upper arms, and lift off. It’s probably all in a day’s work for someone who’s been practicing for a while, but it can be scary when you first try it out. An hour in, the class was attempting it for the third time: people were tired, sore, and getting cranky. Some endured and some dropped like flies. Amazingly, a large handful of people spontaneously erupted into laughter mid-pose or mid-fall, at the pure comedy of it all.
Looking around and sensing exactly what was going on, the teacher said, “And it just got funny – that’s right where we want it to be.”
That eruption of laughter in class signaled, I think, a pretty fundamental shift. People had gone from being completely caught up in the technique and trying hard (maybe too hard) to get it right to launching into a much more lighthearted place. And laughter seems to be what got people there. The whole feel of the class was very different after that point.
One of the big challenges in yoga, for novices and experts alike, is taking what you learn on the mat into life. We all have those days that exemplify Murphy’s Law, where nothing goes right, and you get into a blacker and blacker mood. Oftentimes, there’s some last straw, where you either have a mental meltdown or you laugh at yourself. Figuring out how to make the laughter come sooner and, hopefully, eclipse the breakdown is a good goal to have, and something that yoga seems like it can help with.
If technique gives way to heart, or body to mind, then maybe laughter is some sort of link between the two. Maybe when you find the funny, you know you’re finally getting somewhere.
Do you ever find yourself taking your practice too seriously? Do you find that yoga helps you take yourself less seriously in daily life?
Alice G. Walton, PhD is a health and science writer, and began practicing (and falling in love with) yoga last year. She is the Associate Editor at TheDoctorWillSeeYouNow.com and a Contributor at Forbes.com. Alice will be exploring yoga’s different styles, history, and philosophy, and sharing what she learns here on the YogaGlo blog. You can follow Alice on Twitter @AliceWalton and Facebook at Facebook.com/alicegwalton.