So we contract. We pull inward and make ourselves small and hard like a tired, grumpy turtle pulling into its shell.
And sometimes withdrawal is necessary: sometimes to protect ourselves from very real threats, sometimes to heal, sometimes like the hermit who goes into her cave to seek enlightenment or mystical union with God.
But many of us get stuck here, in this protective place of contraction. And then we stop growing. We stagnate or decline.
Expansion comes from letting go—letting go of expectations and attachments to how we think things ought to be. Letting go of the judgments and criticisms of self and others that stem from these attachments. Letting go of worries about the future or regrets about the past or whatever it is that keeps us from being fully present, in this moment right now.
When we can let go, we can let our hearts and minds, our whole being shine with love, and we become open, inclusive, expansive. Joyful.
Expansion on the Mat
- Feeling safe. Yoga meets everyone right where they are, with no expectations for you to be anyone other than who you are right now, body and mind.
- Slowing down. To let go of self-criticism we must become aware of it, and to do that we have to turn inward and stay mindful; we have to listen to the internal chatter so we can consciously decide which voices to encourage and which to turn off.
- Being patient and compassionate with ourselves. This job takes time. We’ve spent a lifetime listening to the chatter and taking it seriously. It won’t be turned off in a day. But if we can continue to observe and accept ourselves right where we are, the voices that lead us to contract will fade away.
- Letting go. Let go of fear and worry and self-criticism. Let go of all those things that make us emotionally and spiritually small and hard.
- Filling up. Fill up with compassion and ease and joy. Fill up on all those things that help us expand.
That is how we grow on the mat.