The antibiotics finally banished my month-long sinus infection and I was able to return to yoga after missing a some classes and half-assing many more. I could really feel the difference after a few weeks of illness and poor practice, so I was grateful that teacher Jen Yaros chose to make intensity the focus of the class. Sometimes the things yoga teachers offer up nonsensical sermons as you struggle to hold a pose without falling down. At other times, like this one, the simplest statements can be so profound. As she guided the class through core-work that also required balance, Jen asked us to strive for “intensity without struggle.”
Intensity without struggle sounds like an oxymoron, but intensity and struggle are not actually synonymous. And once you manage to wrap your mind around the difference between them – what an idea! Imagine facing the all the challenges in your life by giving them your full attention and effort without struggling against the fact that you are being seriously challenged. When we are able to calmly accept that a situation exists, we can dedicate the energy that would have resisted the situation to actually achieving what the situation demands of us. There it was, the key to life, hidden in a boat pose vinyasa.
Of course, uncovering profound lessons in the repetition of physical movement is the reason we do yoga (what, you thought it was about flat abs?). We valiantly try to quiet the monologue in our heads by focusing on the breath. We concentrate on proper alignment as we move through the poses, hoping that as we reorder our bodies, our minds are also organized, so that when we step off the mat we are better able to deal with whatever problems were running around up there in the first place. But it’s always a special day when one of those profound life lessons is so elegantly revealed, when the physical challenge so beautifully parallels our life’s struggles and we discover that the answer to both challenges is the same.