Resist vs. Allow

By Perspective

Yoga is so simple. And yet, it’s not. Just like any other healthy relationship, our relationship with the postures must have a healthy dose of resistance: holding the form/framework to allow for more to happen in time. If we said yes to everything someone asked of us, chances are we would feel depleted and resentful fairly quickly. Similarly, if we flopped everywhere and into every posture, our body would start to give us some not so positive feedback. If we stopped any time we were challenged mentally or physically in a posture or in seated meditation we would never get anywhere. Can we resist the fluctuations and temptations of the mind and body and be in that space between stimulus and response? Can we hold something long enough to notice we’re even in it? Can we say no to something or someone to leave space for a “yes” that better suits us?

Yoga has evolved so much from it’s original Indian roots. What I notice now is, for the most part, the practice mimics the inconsistent, capricious nature of humankind. It is an interesting time to be in the yoga community. We live in a world where “doing what feels best” has given us permission to be lazy in our practice. As teachers, we are so fearful of offending or pushing someone to their limit for fear they might not like it. We zip from one posture to the next in less than a breath. Because that is “safer”. That feels better. WHERE IS YOUR STAYING POWER? WHERE IS YOUR DISCIPLINE, YOUR RESISTANCE? If everyone did exactly what they wanted at the exact moment they wanted our world would be in a lot of trouble.

Believe me, there is a time and place for listening to your instinct and “following your heart”— I mostly live by that. I would actually argue that gut instinct and reaction are two very different things. The first voice you hear could be either one; however, the origin of these internal voices come from two very different places: instinct from wisdom and reaction from fear. (That’s probably a separate blog post topic altogether.)  Anyways, if we’re going to live in the realm of free flow and make it so extreme we have to match it with extreme discipline, grounding; resistance. Can we allow our heart to open in posture and still keep a strong mula bandha and uddiyana bandha? Can we sit on our ass and be silent even when it is SO HARD, and stick with it?  We’ve all heard Patanjali’s sutra, “Yogas citta vriti nirodah”, which essentially means when the mind stops, consciousness will stand on it’s own. In many ways, resistance allows for consciousness to exist.

What allows us that staying power; that resistance? Well, tapas. My man Patanjali hooked it up again in his sutras, outlining the niyamas, or set of moral contracts which guide us towards positive behavior. The third niyama, tapas, is defined as austerity or discipline; an internal fire that burns away impurities. There has to be tapas in our yoga practice. Without it, we’re still the same mess as when we started. Tapas is staying power. Tapas is willpower. Tapas is determination. Tapas is anything that takes away in order to bring benefit somewhere else. Shit is gonna happen. Hard postures will be there. Hard situations will come up. Do we have the staying power to remain unaffected? Can we resist any little change in our thought and mood and allow ourselves to be present, open and clear no matter what? Spoiler alert, with consistent practice, the answer is a resounding yes.

Yes, it is hard! I’m right there with ya. However, that very resistance is the stuff that makes your practice and your life enjoyable. To know sweet, we must taste bitter. To know release, we must know tension. To know freedom, we must know constraint.

How has resistance held the space for something greater in your life or practice?  I would love to hear from you!

If you’re wondering, mood music is a thing.  Take a listen!

Mood music: “Resist the Temptation” by 2Pac

xoxo, ains

Who am I?

By Perspective

Hi. I’m Ainsley. I was going to write my bio in 3rd person to make it sound more professional, but my intention is to connect, and that felt really stiff to me. When building this website, I started building my content with the “about me” page. So assignment number one was going deep. Who even am I?! That answer has somewhat changed as I have lived and I am grateful for the chance to evolve. So here is a little bit about me, my past, and who I am at the moment.

I was born in San Diego, California but raised in Memphis, Tennessee. I am the youngest daughter of two very loving and supporting parents. My older sister is my best friend. I had a near picture perfect upbringing: well liked, happy family life, excelled at sports (and school when I felt like it), class president, team captain, homecoming queen, etc. Are you bored or cringing yet?  Read on.

I was introduced to yoga about the time I started to transition into the hardest years of my life. I took my first yoga class at the suggestion of my lacrosse coach and loved it. It was both mentally and physically challenging, I sweat buckets, and it was lyrical enough to remind me of dancing. Fast forward to a few months later and I joined a competitive lacrosse team in Baltimore, Maryland (southern lacrosse was not what it is now). I went from being team captain and MVP to EASILY the worst player on that team. The head coach repeatedly told me that I was not good enough, that I didn’t look the part, that I was too skinny; that I wasn’t training hard enough because I didn’t want it enough. Say those things enough to anyone and they’ll start to question their worth. It didn’t take long for the things he was saying to me to become the things I was saying to myself. I started obsessing over my diet, waking up at 5 to work out before school and cheerleading practice and ran lacrosse drills after practice. Long story short, I started telling myself I wasn’t good enough. Not just in lacrosse. That I could, and should, be more perfect. A year prior to this, I started taking Vyvanse to manage my ADHD, so obsessive behavior became second nature.

As a result, my mental and physical health really took a toll. I went to therapy but was too ashamed to admit to my therapist that I was feeling lost and defeated. The happy, positive Ainsley was there somewhere, I just couldn’t access it. Happiness was always one more accomplishment away. I had streaks of ulcers lining my stomach my senior year from self induced stress.

Fast forward to college, I still didn’t know who I was because the person I felt to be was told repeatedly by herself and others that she was not good enough. Picture perfect resume but so very broken inside. I tried my best to not let anyone in on my little secret. I tried my best to act like my true self; although I doubt I fooled anyone. My sophomore year, one of my high school friends passed away in a car accident and I did not know how to handle it. I became severely depressed and was too ashamed to share my grief with anyone, especially my high school friends. I felt because I wasn’t his closest friend that I had no right to be as affected as I was. I locked myself in my room, sometimes for a few days. I would stay in bed with the lights off. I took antidepressants, stimulants (Vyvanse), and tried my best to maintain the illusion of normalcy. I was in a state school and a sorority that I chose because it felt like that’s what you do, but it was not at all conducive to my wellbeing. I felt like I was living someone else’s life and wasn’t sure I had the strength to turn it around.

My mom (I love you, mom!) came to visit me and took me to a yoga class. I felt a shift but was too depressed and ashamed to go to a public class, so I bought a DVD from Target. If I did it first thing in the morning, 
I had the confidence to attend my university classes. Little by little, I started coming back to me and became a regular at the Glowing Body in Knoxville, TN. I went to yoga class almost every day. With the guidance of teachers, I was taking the advanced class on Wednesday nights instead of partying and yoga classes on Saturdays instead of tailgating. Not that any of those are wrong or bad! Just not really my bag. Yoga gave me the confidence to say, “Good for you! Not for me.” Which was HUGE. I stopped taking my antidepressants cold turkey (in hindsight not the best method) and felt BETTER. It was a miracle! It was yoga. I knew that if I helped someone help themselves, much like the teachers who taught me, I would have fulfilled my purpose.

So here I am. Yoga has brought me lasting friendships, travel opportunities and most importantly, yoga has brought me back to myself. The more I practice, the more limitless and joyful I feel. I am able to see that in others because I feel secure enough in myself again to appreciate the masterpiece that is humankind. Not that there has to be the official end goal of yoga practice (not that it even needs one), but for me it works. I truly love my life and love myself; and I love you for reading this much! Kidding. But I do love you; if you don’t know me personally that may sound trite but I really mean it. Love changes everything, and when we are able to love ourselves, we can really begin to love others. And with that, magic happens.

Mood music: “Right Hand” by Drake