Since January 1, you’ve probably worked at de-stressing, decluttering and detoxing. So, why does it still seem like there’s something holding you back? What’s keeping you grounded when you feel so ready to take off?
Learning to be free enough to fly high starts with letting go. You can’t soar if you’re toting a backpack with a ton of useless stuff, unhealthy life hacks and decades of negativity. And, you can’t hope to really launch if you’re too afraid to take that first leap skyward—leaving behind what people have made you believe are the only building blocks for safety and security. You have to lighten up to liberate yourself from limitations and then go explore all the possibilities of becoming your best self.
If that sounds daunting, break it down into manageable steps. Commit to doing one thing each day to clear out something that doesn’t make you feel super-powered. Maybe it’s the sweater you wear because someone complimented you that one time. You know the one—it’s nothing like what is on your wish-list it’s how someone else would dress you (or himself/herself). It could be unburdening your fridge of foods that fill you up without fueling you up. Or, perhaps you need to delve deeper and gently end the toxic relationship that makes you feel second best or not “best” in any sense. These things aren’t touchstones; they’re millstones.
Next, move on to the real life-changer. The most important part of letting go doesn’t happen outside of you; it happens in your mind. Schedule time each day to do some diagnostic work on the thought patterns that you need to release. If you like meditation, make that the focus of a “working” meditation practice. Journal about it. Make that the mindful theme of daily. Concentrate on identifying the fake “truths” that are all about what you can’t do, and erase them.
Look for the red flags that form the roadblocks; then get rid of them as well. When you’re on your yoga mat and you begin Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend), is your first thought, “I’ll never touch the floor because my hamstrings are so tight”? Hamstrings stretch. Let go of the idea that they’re made of steel cables. Change that thought. Set realistic goals of getting closer to the floor with each class, and celebrate achieving them as you become more flexible.
Throw out any negative thought that has the words “you never” and “you always”. Most of these are just empty litanies written on your mental whiteboard by people who haven’t taken the time to notice how you’ve changed and grown. Just because you couldn’t do the splits when you were in gymnastics in junior high doesn’t mean you can’t attempt Hanumanasana (Monkey Pose) now. If you’re studying yoga, you’re already flexible in your thinking. Now, get your junior high gym teacher out of your head and take that confident flexibility into your practice.
And, don’t miss the opportunity to let go of your own ideas about your limits. Make a vision board of the poses you want to achieve; the lifestyle you’d like to live; what means happiness, completeness, and success to you. Take some time to look at how you get in our own way with your self-perception. Every time you think, “I can’t,” stop and deliberately delete that thought. Focus on what you would need to do within the next hour to make that “I can.”
Equally important, make sure your goals are truly yours and that they’re worth the journey. Detach from the Instagram world of having to be a certain size, race, gender, hand-stander—whatever. Declutter your priorities so that you don’t always feel overwhelmed, “behind” your peers or just plain incompetent. Curate your goals down to a few things that make you feel whole and happy.
There’s no better place to start letting go than the home base of the yoga mat. Use these poses to help your body and mind work together to hit escape velocity.
Baddha Virabhadrasana (Humble Warrior Pose)
Benefits: This combination of strength and flexibility represents the blend of security and insecurity that comes with positive change.
How to do it: Start in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Hop or step your feet three and a half to four feet apart. Turn your left toes in and your right toes out. Lift your arms to the ceiling, palms facing each other. Square both hips to the front of the mat. Bend into your right knee, making sure it doesn’t go past your toes. Clasp your hands behind your back. Then, staying long in your spine, reach for the floor. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then release to Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I Pose), change sides and repeat.
Patita Tarasana (Fallen Triangle Pose)
Benefits: This pose helps you channel the openness to change you’ll need to find true freedom from your own baggage.
How to do it: Start in Plank Pose. Reach your right arm up to the ceiling as you open your body so that your chest faces the long edge of your mat and your weight is on the left side of both feet, toes pointing the same way you’re facing. Bring your right leg behind your left as far as is comfortable, keeping your foot on the mat. Continue to reach up for 15 to 30 seconds, then return to Plank Pose and repeat on the other side.
Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)
Benefits: helps relieve anxiety, which can often hinder the process of letting go.
How to do it: Begin lying on your stomach. On an exhale, bend your knees in as far as you can and reach back to grasp your ankles. Keep your knees no wider than your hips. Inhale and lift your thighs off the floor to raise your upper body. Look straight ahead. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then release.
Benefits: this deep backbend opens your heart—physically and emotionally.
How to do it: Lie on your back. Bend your knees and place your feet on the mat. Bend your elbows and place your palms on the mat, fingers pointing toward toes. Exhale and lift your pelvis off the mat, taking two or three breaths. Press into your hands to lift your upper body, again taking two to three breaths. Finally, press into both feet and hands to lift your body until the crown of your head is resting on the mat and take two to three more breaths. Then, lift into the full pose, lifting your body as far off the mat as is comfortable. Keep elbows facing forward and Stay there for five to 10 seconds, then release and repeat three to 10 times.
Bakasana (Crow or Crane Pose)
Benefits: This arm balance lets you feel what it’s like to “let go” of fears.
How to do it: Start in Tadasana (Mountain Pose), feet slightly apart. Squat down. Stretch your arms forward, then bend them and place your hands on the ground, fingers pointing forward. Slide your thighs in toward the sides of your body and place your shins high on your arm close to your armpits. Shift forward and tighten your core as you place more weight into your arms. If you’re ready, lift up one foot, then, if you can, both. Hold and “fly” for 20 seconds to one minute, then release.