Force is Good for Opening Jars of Peanut Butter

Frequently when I’m teaching, I’ll see someone “force a pose.” I can talk until I’m blue in the face about the transition from bound side angle pose to bird of paradise, for example, I can emphasize the importance of a long spine, a top shoulder opening toward the sky, and of course, the ability to breathe with ease, and undoubtedly, someone will start hopping their back foot forward, even though they’re hunched over, grunting, turning purple, and can in no way begin to really stand on the standing leg. There are many reasons I’ll shut this down. Obviously there’s the risk for physical injury–straining the low back, compromising the bound shoulder, stressing the hamstrings of both legs, but there’s also the emotional injury.

I fully believe in the saying, “How you do anything is how you do everything.” If someone is forcing it on their mat, it’s a pretty safe bet they’re forcing it in their life, too. Relationships that don’t feel right, jobs that don’t fit, ideas about themselves that are old or untrue. When we chase someone we’re forcing it, romantically or otherwise. If you have to sell yourself or dance like a monkey to earn someone’s attention or affection, that’s forcing it. If you try to fit yourself into the mold you think you must in order to be accepted, that’s forcing it. When you’re in something, and you know in your heart it just isn’t right, but you close your eyes and plug your ears and hold on for dear life because you simply cannot face reality as it painfully is, that’s forcing it, and all of that will lead to injury.

It’s painful to your true self when you refuse to accept what is real for you, because deep down, we all know. We know when something is flowing, and we know when something is dying. Denial, repression, numbing, running for dear life, none of it works. You can’t escape yourself, or your beautiful, truthful heart. Your fruit, your gifts, will shrivel and die on the branch if you insist on staying rooted in something that you know is just not right. Not for you, anyway.

There are so many understandable reasons people force it. Fear of the unknown, desire for stability in a spinning world, an inability to love themselves, to accept, forgive, embrace, cherish, honor, and celebrate themselves. I really believe we’re all here to give whatever we’ve got. Why else would you be able to love, or feel despair, or shame, or joy, or heartache, or fear, or intense, piercing gratitude? You have this instrument, your body, and you can take it for a ride. You can see what it’ll do with enough patience and compassion and kindness. How it might open for you, or strengthen, or more fluidly take you from point A to point B, and you have all those same possibilities with your heart, your spirit, your essence, your soul, whatever you want to call it. The you-est you there is, how’s that? You get to take that you for a spin, too. You get to see what lights you up, and what shuts you down, and what you need in order to grow and thrive and offer up the very best of yourself. You get to see if you can love in the way that includes acceptance and real seeing and listening and understanding. You get to figure out what scares you, and what you need to heal so you can open more.

I mean, you don’t have to do these things. In some places what I’m suggesting would seem radical and unsafe. For some people a rigid plan is a necessity. Following a logical progression, toeing the line, hitting the milestones, that seems like “the way”, but I tried that, and I’ll bet most of you have, too. We aren’t robots. There is no formula for what it is that will bring you peace or joy. That’s an adventure you choose to take, or you don’t, but I don’t know many people who toe the line and end up happy. You can try to fit into some idea you’ve been sold since before you could speak. That’s what I’d call forcing it. Or you could grab your courage by the you-know-whats and find your own way. You’ll have to at some point, anyway, if you want to be happy. Freedom and ease will never be the result of force. If you can’t breathe, you’re forcing it.

Sending you love, and wishing you deep, easy breathing,

Ally Hamilton

If the posts are helpful, you can find my books here <3

One thought on “Force is Good for Opening Jars of Peanut Butter”

Leave a Reply