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Managing Life Transitions with Yoga

Sometimes transitions are hard. Really, really hard. Losing a loved one, let’s say, or going through a divorce. We know that these universally qualify as extremely hard times, so we make special effort to diligently practice to help get us through. As many of us have experienced, yoga can be a real lifesaver during life’s most difficult transitions.

But what about not-so-difficult transitions?

Given all that we’ve learned from the big stuff, a little move across town shouldn’t be a problem! An internal job change? No big deal! We’re busy during these transitions, so we might ease up on practice to accommodate the extra things we have to do. After all, we’ve got this! We’re seasoned yogis! We know how to be comfy in the face of uncertainty, how to breathe and stay present.

And suddenly — whump! The new apartment is way noisier than we expected! The new job has a ton of ridiculous paperwork involved that we never had to do before! The new grocery store doesn’t have our favourite brand of lentils! And we lose it!

Suddenly there’s no time for yoga at all, we’re too busy obsessively researching sound-proofing wall-paper, desperately begging for our old job back, trying to get a crate of lentils shipped to our home. Before we know it our upper back is a crunched-up, nasty old thing.

Even worse than that, we are flagellating the heck out of ourselves for losing it, our internal monologue rife with, “Chill out! What is your problem? You were actually calmer when your sister had cancer!”

Where did we go wrong?

Just because we’re yogis, doesn’t mean we won’t react to change or that we are somehow failing when we are not calm in the face of transition. Further, yoga is called a practice precisely because there is no place of fruition, no time when we can stop and say, “Okay! Now I get it! I am done.” As mentioned, when things really heat up, when things are undeniably tough, we might take special care to practice hard. When things seem a little easier, we might want to front a little bit, and act like the needed lessons have already been learned.

Hmm. Yet another lesson learned.

Time to practice. Again.

Luckily, philosophies of various schools suggest specific poses that will help to ease transitions.

From a chakra perspective, stimulation of the second chakra helps to balance the energy centre responsible for weathering change. Try a yin-style frog pose (very wide-legged child’s pose) held for two to three minutes to stimulate this chakra.

According to Chinese medicine, replenishing our kidney chi can help ease a fear of change. To get the vital energy flowing in the kidney/urinary bladder meridians, try a yin-style sphinx pose.

Any yang style practice – vinyasa, ashtanga, etc. – will help unblock stagnant energy and ready the body to accept change.

And if you’re all tuckered out from resisting the transition, try just a few minutes lying in savasana, breathing. This could be just the pause we need to remind us that even when everything is different and unmanageable and undesirable, there is really still only this. One moment at a time.

Julia Tausch practices yoga and writing in Hamilton, Ontario. She is a certified yin yoga instructor, as well as the author of the novel Another Book About Another Broken Heart. She is currently completing her second novel and blogging about the process.

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