There's a posture in yoga called side lying twist. To enter it, you lie on your side with knees curled. If you're on your right side, the left arm extends and reaches up and over to lie on the ground with the palm facing up. The teacher usually tells you to bring your left shoulder blade to the floor.
For most of us, tight shoulders may prevent us from getting the arm to the floor, let alone the shoulder. And yet, when we move our attention elsewhere and give ourselves time, often the body opens and allows the shoulder blade to make sweet contact.
It occurs to me that this is a lesson not only for the pose, but for life itself.
Picture it: You're standing in line at the grocery store. It has been a long day, you're tired, you're ready to go home, but visions of an empty fridge keep popping into your head. So here you are with a full cart along with a line of people who all had the same mental image. Perhaps you sigh heavily, fidget a little, glance at the tabloids, eye the candy bars, and feel an overall sense of powerlessness to move the line along.
Then, your ears pick up on a song coming from the store's speakers, and it happens to be your favorite. Your hips sway, you softly hum the tune and recall where you were and who you were with when you first decided this was your song.
Your perspective has changed, attention altered, mind shifted. And the line that had been so frustrating ceases to be much of an issue at all.
Life is what we perceive it to be. We can train all our attention on what we don't like, don't have, can't do, can't be, can't reach, might get, might happen, or might hear. Or, we can shift. We can turn our attention to something different, something new, somewhere else. When that happens, a new pathway is formed in the brain and we begin to recognize that our current perception isn't particularly accurate.
Back in the pose, as I struggle to move my shoulder to the floor, the teacher says magical words. "Breathe into your lower back, let your navel move to the left." Big breaths into the low spine bring a sensation of freedom, a letting go, and the next thing I know my shoulder drops to the floor. Changing my focus to a part of my body other than my shoulder allowed me to let go of my original state of attention. It is in that letting go that I find true freedom, release . . . and ground.
Diana Reed is a yoga teacher, writer and co-owner of Gaya Jyoti Yoga in Hernando County. She can be reached at (352) 610-1083 or gayajyotiyoga.com.