Alexis Novak is a yoga instructor, NASM-CPT, and mobility enthusiast. As a contributor for THE/THIRTY, Alexis will be sharing her knowledge of anatomy, biomechanics, and meditation to help you find your own personal balance between strength and serenity. Her approach to wellness is to simplify and keep a sense of humour. This month, she's sharing how to master the art of letting go.
Inhale. Exhale. There, you just let something go. If only letting everything go was that easy. Even a simple exhale is tough and forced at times when we feel anxious or stuck. So how do we let go? Cognitively, we know that "letting go" is where our freedom lives—our freedom to breathe and feel the weightless release of heavy burdens, pain, and suffering.
But how do we do that, Alexis? It's hard. I am coming to you live from the centre of this process, and everything I speak to you, I am also experiencing myself. Most people see anger, resentment, jealousy, sadness, and other "push-away" emotions as bad news or a sign that we have to change something; the powerful bubble of icky emotions that sit in our gut and chest make us say, "Nope, not going there." This trigger is a powerful urge and instinctively tells us to take whatever means necessary to make the feelings disappear, though deep down we know we can't.
What would it look like if, instead, we took this as an opportunity to bravely open up to those feelings and accept them as part of ourselves? We've heard the saying, "We are not our emotions," but when we are upset, it's hard to wrap our hearts around this idea. Sometimes, the pain is so grand that it's all we see, all we feel, all we think about despite our best efforts. So what if we surrendered and stopped trying to fight what is? What if we embodied the grace we see in those we admire around us and let reality, regardless of how ugly and difficult it is, just be? What has helped me is imagining emotion as it arises as just one song on a playlist. Whether the feeling is positive or negative, it is temporary and isn't the only option on the playlist.
Below is a yoga flow I sequenced to help detox the body and "let go" of the excess we no longer need. The mantra I have paired with it is: This is how life is right now, but it won't be like this forever. Just like the asana shapes we take in a yoga class, we don't stay in their discomfort or their pleasure forever.
Downward-Facing Dog: This pose is a supported gentle inversion. It helps to flip your perspective while feeling safe and gentle. The intention of this pose is to allow oxygen to flow through the airway from a different angle and to give the hamstrings a sweet stretch.
Three-Legged Downward-Facing Dog With Bent-Knee Variation: This is a really great release of the psoas (the deep belly flexor muscle). Press firmly into your palms to keep the balance as you explore this variation.
Pigeon Pose: This hip opener is perfect to release tension in our hips and back. The easiest way to set this up is to place your right knee by your right elbow, then to draw your right ankle by your left wrist (making your shin parallel with the top short-edge of the mat).
Reclined Butterfly: This gentle hip-open pose lets gravity do the work. If you have tight hips, prop your outer thighs up with two pillows for support.
Reclined Cow Face: This pose is great to get into the delicate piriformis muscle. Squeeze your thighs together and hold onto wherever is available on your legs or shins. Kick the legs into the hands, and press the hands into the legs.
Supine Twist With Bent Knees: This supine twist variation is very "lazy" and allows the body to relax in the detoxifying shape it wants to. Use a pillow under the knee if needed. Hold this pose for 30 full breaths.
Legs Up the Wall: Allow your lower back to be supported by the ground and your feet to finally take the load off. This is a wonderful way to somatically down-regulate the body and let the heart relax back into the chest.