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:: March 2008: Volume 7/Number 2

My Other Car Is A Yoga Mat

Let it Go-Go.

by Beth Lapides

Like many L.A. yogis, I’m not just a free spirit, I’m a Type A free spirit: always working very hard to let the wind blow me where it will.

Of course that extends into over-efforting in my yoga practice. For instance one of my teachers, Dennis, has us do a final lying-down twist in which he adjusts you by lifting you up then laying you down deeper into your pose. “Ahhhh,” I hear all around me. But it just never goes well on my mat.

“Grab on,” he says, offering me his hand. I do.

“Let go,” he says. Then, apparently, I don’t. Because he says it again more sternly, and then we laugh.

“Trust issues?” he asks one day. Sure, I thought. I live in Hollywood, don’t I?

“Let go,” he reminds me.

“I’m trying,” I say.

Of course, trying is the opposite of letting go. Trying is willful. Letting go is willing. Sometimes I feel like I have spent my whole life learning to change one syllable.

Sometimes you can fix something on your mat and it resonates in your life and sometimes you need to fix your life before you can see results on your mat. So I looked at my life. And I noticed that I was drinking out of a mug with the logo of a project I was desperately trying to let go of. Everyday, all day, I was literally holding on to it! So I surrendered to shopasana and went out and bought myself some new mugs.

I finally took a little time out from patting myself on the back to go to the dentist where, much to my horror, I learned that I’m a chronic hard-core jaw clencher. Jaw clenching is even more the opposite of letting go than trying is. Trying can at least be interpreted as persevering or being determined. Jaw clenching can only be seen as a desperate attempt to hide your own stress from yourself.

The dentist recommended a solution to prevent oral catastrophe: start wearing a night guard. No way. If I’m going to spend $400 on something to wear in bed, it’s going to be a lot sexier than a night guard.

There must be a better way to deal with it, I thought. That kind of innovation-seeking is the good part of being willful. I remembered a CD Jenifer, one of my favorite massage therapists, who also happens to be a hypnotherapist, made after she had felt my jaw clenching last year. At that point I’d rationalized the jaw clenching. I’m a professional talker! Of course my jaw is tight! Now, with the wake-up call from my new yoga teacher; the dentist, I was taking it to heart.

So I took it to my mat, and in my practice I directed my consciousness and a blue healing light toward my fifth chakra, the energy center at the throat, and the area around my jaw. For the first time I could actually feel the tightness. You never know how many times you have to listen to something till you hear it. Until you let go of not hearing it. Like in class when every single day a teacher says something like hug your muscles to the bone, and then one day you are like, “Oh! Hug my muscles to the bone!”

I let the tightness go. A little. Then, maybe because it’s my jaw, and my jaw is so near to my brain, I somehow got that “let go” means let and then you can go. Allow and then you can move. Surrender and then flow.

Trying is willful. Letting go is willing. Sometimes I feel like I have spent my whole life learning to change one syllable.

So I have been letting go. Not just projects and kitchenware, not just tension in my jaw, but also clothes and papers; old ideas and habits. I unsubscribed to my cable TV. I canceled one of my phones. Stopped eating soy. And now, when I am holding on to something, or someone or some way, it is more often not out of habit or fear but because I love it.

Like when I was practicing Googleasana; when searching “jaw tension yoga” I found jiva bandha. I’ve been taught other bandha (energy locks), like moola bandha, the floor or first chakra lock, and jalandhara bandha, throat chakra lock. In jiva bandha, the tip of the tongue rests at the roof of the mouth; like you’re saying nnnnnn. As in: nnnnno jaw tension. Besides relaxing the jaw it also stimulates the pituitary gland, essentially the third eye. Wow! I start practicing jiva bandha, which is to say, I catch myself, about a thousand times a day, with my tongue, not in jiva bandha but plastered to the roof of my mouth! Yikes! Let it go!

“Give me your hand,” Dennis said yesterday.

I did, thinking, “Wow I am really letting go!”

“Let go,” he says patiently.

And instead of trying, I didn’t try.

“Better,” he said. And I smiled. Which does use the jaw muscles, but in a very different way.

Beth Lapides is the author of Did I Wake You? Haikus for Modern Living and the creator of Un-Cabaret. Find out more about her shows, workshops and seminars at bethlapides.com. Or email her at beth at bethlapides.com.

 

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LA Yoga Ayurveda & Health Magazine

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