Transition has been occupying a lot of thought these last few weeks, as I trade my bikinis and flip-flops for leggings and boots. In our house this transition has been met with less than enthusiastic attitudes, myself included. We enjoyed beautiful weather at the Jersey Shore this summer, and especially following a long and cold winter, we are sad to see the season change. But change happens whether we want it to or not. There are ways we can approach these changes, these life transitions, however, to create and encourage a little more ease and comfort. As with many other things, I look to my yoga practice to guide me.
A recent article in the September 2015 issue of Yoga Journal magazine referred to author Mark Stephens (“Yoga Sequencing: Designing Transformative Yoga Classes”…one of my yoga library favorites) and his teaching that “one of the most common times to get injured in yoga practice is during a transition” p. 76. So for example, say you layer in a vinyasa flow between a sequence of postures, I would most commonly think I would wind up in a downward facing dog and depending on levels of focus, energy and presence, I may just rush through the other postures or steps prior to arriving there, and in turn, I’m missing the mind/body benefits of those postures (i.e., opening of the heart center in upward facing dog, core and upper body strengthening in chaturanga). Additionally, rushing through in a less than mindful fashion could lead to poor form and even injury.
During Ashtanga class this weekend I noticed (just before my instructor did!) that my shoulders weren’t in line with my elbows, but much closer to the mat, as I lowered down through chaturanga during my vinyasa. I’m not sure how long I’ve had this habit, but thankfully it was early enough in the class that I spent the rest of my practice making the correction. After class my fellow teacher and friend commented that she thinks this is what may have caused my recent shoulder injury.
My primary area of teaching is Bikram, or hot 26, where the physical transitions of the practice are a bit more subtle. However, thinking about these transitions led me to a different perspective, and appreciation of transition off the mat. The two major transition postures are savasana and the sit-up, both of which occur in the floor series during the latter portion of class. The sit-up could definitely cause or exacerbate injury or discomfort if performed incorrectly and mindlessly. Savasana, “corpse pose”, as transition has less risk of injuring the physical body (as the body is still), but creates an added challenge for the mind to be still and present. The signature pause between sets and postures throughout the series, in my opinion, is it’s own transition and shouldn’t be ignored.
We’ve all heard the cliche that “life is about the journey not the destination”. I like to think transitions are journeys within the journey, added gifts in life. While transitional yoga postures are a path from point A to point B, that doesn’t mean we should ignore the path as a purposeful entity in and of itself, right? As we transition from summer to fall, rather than become overwhelmed with all that needs to be done to get from A to B, enjoy the present moment. Don’t be too quick and mindless to empty those drawers full of cut-offs and tank tops to just as quickly fill them with sweaters and socks. Feel the comforting warmth of the sun during the day, maybe even jump in the ocean to cool off. At night feel the energizing crispness in the air, sleeping with windows…and hearts…wide open.