When faced with difficulty, fear, boredom or any other such thoughts and emotions, I’ve done what many people do – retreat.

I’ve blamed myself for not being good enough.  I’ve blamed and resented others for putting me in difficult situations.  I’ve gotten caught up in that negative cycle of bitterness, judgement and self deprecation.  I’ve literally put up my own roadblocks that have prevented me from continuing to pursue my desires, admitting defeat, and moving on.

In yoga, when holding a difficult pose, my mind used to laser focus on a laundry list of emotions and thoughts.  I would strain through the pose, resenting the teacher for making the class so hard, and thinking too much about how I wasn’t good enough at yoga to even be trying.  I gave up and allowed years to pass before trying again.  In life I let stress and my emotions get the better of me.  I tried to power through difficult situations, or I didn’t work hard enough, and I ended up feeling a failure, frustrated and tired.

What I learned, after falling off and getting back on the proverbial yoga horse, is that yoga is about finding a balance between steadiness and ease.  It means working hard enough to continually grow, while not straining too far, and then allowing time to stay there, breathe through the discomfort and see if you can go a little further.

I’ve learned to pay attention to whether I’m working hard enough or too much.  If I’m straining, I back off a bit, allowing myself to rest and regroup, to take some calming breaths before moving forward.  If I’m cheating myself, I push a bit more and allow myself to rest right there for a moment.  Steadiness and ease.

This applies to life as well.  Resting in the pose, or amid the chaos of a stressful situation, I can observe the resulting emotions and thoughts, rather than retreat or let them take over.  A great teacher of mine described this as allowing the thoughts and emotions to float into and out of the mind like clouds in the sky – observing them, but not dwelling on them, and allowing them to pass on by.

If I’m straining past my abilities, I’ve learned to back off before frustration and exhaustion set in.  In this way, I can be more in tune with what my body and mind are telling me.  I can pause, reflect without dwelling, and work through what I need to do next.  I’ve realized that I can learn while I rest.  I can observe the clouds of thought and emotion that arise and use them to guide me forward, continually growing, rather than holding me back.

Once I learned to find that balance between steadiness and ease, resting in the posture became simple.  I’ve learned to make rest a regular part of my yoga practice as well as my daily life.  This practice has helped me to continually grow, overcome challenges, and live a much happier, more mindful and balanced life.