The Gift of Letting Go, Part Two-Expectations and Goal-Orientation

I expected to sweat. I had a goal to drop some lingering baby weight. Beyond that expectation and goal, when I found hot yoga I had no idea what I would come to discover on my mat…and later off of it. I released my expectations of what a yoga practice could provide me, physically and emotionally, and created space to let it come. In “Yoga Beyond Believe,” Ganga White states, “Asanas are tools, used to work on our bodies, to heal or to build strength, flexibility, and endurance, much more than asanas are goals.” (p. 44) As my body was discovering how to heal itself, release physical tension with my breath, my mind was following suit. Early on I found this practice of yoga had gifted me with benefits far beyond what my goals or expectations could’ve imagined.

Creating expectations which are a struggle to attain will be counterproductive by increasing mind/body tension and frustration, rather than enabling your practice to release it. Work within your limits and be aware that yoga isn’t necessarily a linear path. Letting go of expectations in the yoga room and accepting that non-linear nature of my yoga practice allows me to honor where it takes me on any given day based on any number of circumstances. Our universe is ever-changing. Increasing flexibility in my body naturally increased the flexibility in my heart and mind, something I am grateful to for keeping me from clinging to fixed expectations or setting goals which would remove me from the joy of the present moment. Ganga adds, “Softening our goal orientation can help overcome aggressiveness and effort in yoga practice so we are more able to enjoy the journey.” (p. 45)

I expected to practice a certain number of hours last week. In an effort to let go of my attachment to this number in my mind, rather than practice those maximum hours, I spent time with two friends who both needed a distraction, and a listening ear. I also led class in two very different environments, to two very different populations. In one day I led an intimate non-hot vinyasa class at the beautiful boutique gym Fuel Fitness, and later led 20 first-graders in an “animal-inspired” yoga lesson for career week in my daughter’s class. Both were not only big breaks from the norm of my usual gigs, but also experiences that brought me to a different frame of mind, a heightened state of awareness. The space created by letting go of my expectations was filled with joy and gratitude. And with some luck, a new crop of little yogis was born.

Other than combining two things I’d grown to love so much, I had no specific goal when I started this blog, but I did expect to feel exposed, vulnerable. I called upon, and trusted in, all I’d learned through my yoga practice to overcome and let go of those expectations, embrace that vulnerability. I decided to put myself out there even further by participating in an Instagram yoga challenge for the first time last month (I actually did two!). In “The Path of the Yoga Sutras,” Nicolai Bachman states, “Action based on inspiration and not bound by expectation is truly free.” (p. 202)

Inside of a month, my blog has served as the vehicle for expression I’ve been waiting for, with yoga as my perfect muse. The purity in the cathartic exercise of writing has made this a personal success already, and I’ve been gifted the added benefit of touching the lives of many others, with perhaps not all, but some of my words resonating. My immersion into the Instagram yoga culture with the participation in two challenges has taught me a lot about my physical practice as I’m getting the opportunity to see poses photographed, sometimes from several angles. It’s reminded me that I am always learning, and that is a gift. I was also asked to join an ambassador team for an awesome female-owned and -operated company that makes some DOPE leggings. And my cup runneth over when I was selected as a winner in one of May’s challenges, a lucky recipient of a beautiful handmade yoga mat bag.

Learning to let go of expectations has taught me a great deal about my life on and off the mat. Doing things for the joy of them, remaining in the present moment, will have a calming effect on you-mind, body and spirit. The deeper you dig to discard what doesn’t serve you, what comes to rest in it’s place may even yield unexpected rewards, pleasantly surprising you. Start with the body and as it becomes pliable, observe and embrace the pliability in the heart and soul, mind and spirit. For when all is open, free of expectation, the beauty of life is expansive and limitless.

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