A STORY ABOUT LETTING GO - A SCRIPT FOR YIN YOGA
As a yoga teacher I believe that our role and duty is not only to deliver a physical experience of stretching and strengthening while performing yoga asanas. That would be the very minimum. We must create the space for our students to stop, go inwards and reflect and gude them to get insight. We can guide them to do so with the use of stories, parables, quotes or images that help them to move into the experience of self observation, while they are moving their bodies in sync with the breath.
One of the topics that are regularly presented in a yoga class is the process and challenge of “letting go”. However, in many instances I have seen this theme reduced to a simple “open your heart and let go”, which without the right context and guidance means absolutely nothing. We know that already, we want to let go. But, how can a yoga teacher guide students to develop a deeper understanding of this process in order to be able to do so in their lives?
Recently, in one of my classes in the Northern beaches in Sydney I explored this topic, as part of a yin yoga session with focus on the Metal Element (click here to access the full script you can also use to guide your classes: BALANCING THE METAL ELEMENT WITH YIN YOGA).
After taking my yoga students through the meaning of the element and the impact of an imbalance of it for our body and mind, I move to the topic of “Letting go” (read the same blog to understand why).
There is a story I heard from one of my meditation teachers, which illustrates beautifully the process of letting go. It is a story about how they catch a monkey in Africa and India. It is said that you grab a jar with a thin neck, and place peanuts in the bottom of it. The monkey reaches his hand into the jar to grab the peanuts and makes a fist to keep them in its hand. As the monkey keeps the fist to avoid letting go of the peanuts he can’t get his hand out of the jar because of the thin neck. He is trapped.
He has to decide to either keep the peanuts and remain trapped, or to let go of the peanuts and become free.
We are all like this monkey. We are free, but as we refuse to let things go we become stuck.
We hold onto different emotions, beliefs and ideas, as well as resentment and regrets.
We don’t let go of ideas about how our lives should be, what I should be, do or have. We hold onto the idea that I need something (or someone) in order to be happy.
We become stuck. But we could instead let go of all of that to become free.
Here is when I ask some questions to guide my yoga students to go inwards and reflect to create awareness of where they are in their lives in this respect.
Where in your life are you acting like the monkey? What are you holding on to? What beliefs, ideas about you, others and life are keeping you stuck and preventing you from moving forward in your life?
Why is this important to know and reflect upon? Because we all want to be happy, free from suffering and pain. We want to experience joy and peace. That inability to let go, prevents us from experiencing what we want.
Once your students have gone inwards and identified areas where there is some work that needs to be done (some ideas, beliefs, people, etc. that they need to let go of), ideally yoga teachers would guide them with some steps or tips that can help them to do so.
In my previous post (THE METAL ELEMENT IN YIN YOGA) I mention specific practices that can support this. This story also gives us a simple and clear instruction on HOW to let go.
First, we must become aware of what are the peanuts we are holding on to so you bring awareness to what is the object of the attachment. Then, we must understand and feel in our own body that “letting go” is not an action. Is the opposite: it is the release of something, a dropping of something. So, the second step is exactly that: a decision of no longer acting to retain this. It can be visualised like releasing the fist: an undoing of a fist. Finally, we observe what is still there, the situation as it is, not as we want it to be. We observe it and we breathe into it, in full acceptance of the moment and our reality as it is.
When we don’t let go, we can’t experience full presence, and it is the present moment the only moment where we can experience full happiness.
The benefit of letting go, is summarised in a quote from the buddhist teacher Ajahn Chah:
Do everything with a mind that lets go. Do not expect any praise or reward. If you let go a little, you will have a little peace. If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace. If you let go completely, you will know complete peace and freedom. Your struggles with the world will have come to an end – Ajahn Chah
I hope this helps to guide your own practice and your teaching.
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