Yoga and Transitions

Camillia Lee yoga on busI have never been good at transitions. I like to rush through Surya Namaskaras, getting hot and sweaty, without taking a moment to breathe in between. I used to cry every night before a major trip or event. I’ve been known to have a complete life meltdown conveniently placed in the midst of a (sometimes: every) seasonal change. Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga, points to transitional periods, in seasons especially, as crucial opportunities to find balance in our lives.

According to Dr. Vijay Jaim, M.D., “Health is a harmonious relationship of mind, body and spirit with our extended body i.e., environment. Health is also a harmony of all the rhythms in our physiology. As the rhythms influence the physiology of the universe, so do they affect the physiology in our body. As is the macrocosm, so is the microcosm.” Even when change is happening around us, it affects us internally as well.

As you may notice looking back in the transition from summer to autumn, or as you may be currently experiencing in the transition from autumn to winter, the changes in seasons can really shake us up. It’s only recently as I began delving deeper into my yoga practice and the study of ayurveda that I’ve begun to notice that the transitions in season aren’t the only times I’ve felt a little shaky during a time of change.

Change can be scary; really scary. But as I’ve noted before we can choose to melt away from challenges, or we can step up with courage and take on whatever life throws our way.

I’ve recently begun my 500-hour teacher training, and couldn’t be more excited about it. My intention at the beginning was to keep my “day job” for one more year.  My plan was to continue my training and then after I had graduated begin to immerse myself more into the yoga community, and eventually, maybe, begin teaching full time. As the seasons changed from summer to fall and my training date grew closer, I had an all-too-familiar feeling of anxiety about what the future held. How much was it worth to stay comfortable where I was at instead of taking the logical and, eventually, inevitable next step toward my passion for sharing yoga? How was next year going to be any closer to “the right time” to step out of my comfort zone of earning a regular paycheck and letting my dreams and my future sit on the back burner? I realized and finally decided, like many have before me, that it was never going to be the right time.

So, I made that call and here I lay my heart open before you today to admit to you how scary it was. The hours after I walked out of the place where I had been employed for the last two years, the place that I had spent as much time at as I had in my own home. I totally lost my shit. I pouted and cried like I had never left  a job or done something courageous and daring in my whole life.

I’m happy to report that the week has been getting progressively better. I contribute it to a few key practices that I would like to share with you:

  1. Do yoga – By this I don’t mean just the asana, or posture practice, although that is definitely part of it as well. Twisting especially helps to clear anxiety; forward folding helps cool the nerves.
  2. Do pranayama – Even more important right now is my pranayama, or breathing exercises. Taking a few deep breaths and retaining before letting it spill out helps tremendously to calm the nerves. Practicing Nadi Shodhan pranayama (look it up!) also helps find calm and balance.
  3. Do meditation – After your asana practice and a few rounds pranayama your body and mind will be clearer, calmer, and more receptive to meditation. Meditation is where it’s at! Let your eyes close, focus on your breath and don’t stop! At least 10 minutes of meditation is recommended if you are new to the practice. Any meditation is better than none though.

Take some time when you are finished to sit with your new state of being, noticing and reflecting on your experience. Don’t be discouraged if you come out of your practice feeling slightly agitated or angry or any way but deeply cool, calm, and collected. Our practice has this neat little tendency of bringing to the surface all of our  “stuff” that we like to push deep down into our unconscious.

But all that “stuff” — those anxieties and worries and fears — are keeping us out of balance and making our transition more akin to a sailboat in a storm than a yacht cruise along the coast. We can continue to allow every change in direction to send us into the mercy of the sea, or we can chill out and enjoy the beauty of the sunset. That choice is completely up to us. Learning how to deal with transitions just might be one of the greatest gifts yoga has to offer.


[Editor’s note: This is a guest post from DCOY contributor Sean Devenport. She is currently completing her 500-hour RYT.]

seanyogaA quiet and curious observer by nature, Sean was drawn to human psychology as an undergraduate at Ripon College. Determined to learn just what it is that makes people “tick”, she travelled the globe studying some of the ways we, as humans, can be – spending a semester on the golden beaches of Australia, and another in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, Sean returned home to discover the key ingredient  to understanding others was first to understand the Self. Since 2009, Sean has been a dedicated practitioner of yoga and life, dabbling in every style from Bikram to Kripalu. As a former dancer and dance enthusiast to this day, the fluidity and dance-like quality of Vinyasa was what really spoke to her soul. After studying under Gioconda Parker in 2011, Sean began teaching her own personal style of Hatha Flow, a melding of Vinyasa, the dedication to precision and alignment of Anusara, and Iyengar, and the core teachings of Hatha Yoga. Sean was highly influenced by William J Broad’s 2011 best seller The Science of Yoga, and strives to offer a safe and judgement-free environment for practitioners of every level to seek higher understanding of themSelves. Sean encourages students to pour the compassion and love that they cultivate for themselves on their mats, in to their every day interactions with others. Under the guidance of Gioconda and Christina Sell, Sean is currently pursuing her 500-hour teaching certification, The Alchemy of Flow and Form, at the San Marcos School of Yoga. Connect with Sean on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Photo credit: Camillia Lee

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