Control. It means different things to different people. It has both positive and negative connotations and can be underused or abused.
When it comes to the practice of yoga, you are learning to control your body and mind, but there is a balance to be found. Too much control and you create rigidity; too little control and you lose stability. Finding the right amount of control is part of the practice.
At first you must take things slowly. When learning to control the body, in a 1 legged balance for example, you move slowly to tune into what the body is doing. If you move too fast, you will fall over because you lack control. If you start screaming at yourself in your mind, grasping for control, most likely you will fall over because your mind is causing your body to be tense and unyielding. When you take control of your body in a mindful way, you become very present. You can tune into the subtle shifts of weight on your foot and leg that allow you to balance without falling over. You can more easily adapt to the subtle shifts like the branches of a willow tree, bending but not breaking. Your mind is calm and quiet, but you are completely aware of what is happening in your foot, the muscles of your leg and any other body part that is involved. You are placing your body into a position intentionally. You are assuming control, rather than grasping desperately for it. Like anything in life, it takes practice, moving away from old habits and into new ones.
Control of the mind can be a similar endeavor, and they are most definitely connected. Anxiety often makes us grasp for control in our lives, making us emotionally rigid. Things have to be done a certain way or everything will fall apart (or maybe some other similar story). Assuming control over our minds takes practice. At first we observe. We notice what is happening, the stories we are telling ourselves, maybe even what is true and what is only a held belief. We come into the present moment. But then our mind wanders away to other things-- to our to do list, to the argument we had with our spouse, to that thing that happened that time with that person-- some distraction creeps up and takes our attention. So we come back to this moment, the only moment over which we truly have control.
The past already happened, there is no changing that; the future may or may not ever happen, no matter how hard we plan. We can prepare for it, but we still have no real control over it. The present is the only place where we can create action and therefore do something to make a change. So we cultivate our ability to be in this moment. We lose it and come back. Over and over. The longer you spend in the present, the more control you can have over your body and mind.
By noticing our stories, our tendencies, our "stuff," we can choose to change or stay the same. But at that point we have choice, which equals control.
None of this is easy, it takes time and dedication. But the best part is, there is no finish line, it is the journey that matters. Take your time, go slow and enjoy the adventure.
Janine L. Agoglia has been teaching Vinyasa yoga since 1998. Her yoga journey started in 1995 with Iyengar Yoga and she stumbled upon Vinyasa yoga in 1997. The combination of breath with proper body alignment is what fuels Janine's practice and the classes that she teaches. She believes that yoga should be safe as well as challenging, creative and fun. She always emphasizes proper alignment within the flow, as well as focus, breath and humor to help students find the balance between strength and ease. Deepening one’s physical awareness helps one strengthen his/her spiritual awareness and mind-body connection. Janine loves being able to help people deepen their own practices, finding yoga in everyday life, on and off the mat. Her DVD, “Vinyasa Yoga for Regular People” is available for purchase at the front desk at Lumina Mind Body Studios in Wayland, MA.
In addition to being the Co-Director of Yoga and teaching yoga classes at Lumina Mind Body Studios Janine is also a Licensed Acupuncturist and Chinese Herbalist who practices at Integrative Therapeutics in Natick, MA.