Family Yoga.

It was no surprise to anyone that during our Thanksgiving Day family time, the conversation made its way to the subject of stress, anxiety, reputation, etc.  Each of us has our own business, and/or a truly people-intensive job.  Either way, we often bring home our work’s tension, stress, curiosity, excitement, tension…

I mentioned to them that as a Yoga student, I always appreciate being reminded to let go of the tension in my mouth & jaw.  (I’ve noticed that I hold most of my tension in my jaw and my tongue.)

Okay.  So I know that the first time you hear this, it has to sound totally ridiculous.  But seriously, most of us (everyone; not just my family) keep our tongues firmly planted against the roofs of our mouths.  (Do a check right now.)  

It’s a sign of unnecessary tension, which in turn is of course a sign of stress.  

One of the foundational (and most beautiful) things about Yoga is its ability to bring your awareness back to your own body.  For instance, as soon as you’re aware that you’re holding tension in your tongue, you can let it go and take a deep breath.  As you do so, you may feel a release down into the sides of your neck — from right under your ears to the tops of your shoulders.

Of course, holding unnecessary tension anywhere in your body is a habit; it’s your body’s ingrained way of dealing with stressful and/or emotional circumstances.  To change this, it will take intention and practice; it will require the development of new habits to replace the old, inefficient, and often harmful ones.

So because we need time, and practice, and many many reminders, it’s always good to hear someone say, “Take a deep breath.”  Or, “Let your exhale be long and full.”  Or, “Allow your tongue to loosen from the roof of your mouth.”  

Because over time, your body learns how that loosening feels, how the relaxation feels, the letting-go.  Your body learns how a deep breath feels, with its increased supply of oxygen and its resulting settling-into-the-moment.  

And so, over time, your body will yearn to return to that feeling — and you’ll remember, on your own, to let go.  Slowly, new habits will come.

As I lie down at night, I often remember my Yoga teacher saying, “Allow your top and bottom teeth to separate from each other.”  I remember that in that tiny movement, I feel my whole being let go and relax.  It never fails.

So —

I’m sure we all looked a little crazy, sitting around the living room and trying to loosen our tongues & jaws.  But maybe in a few days, one of us will be staring at a computer screen, or lying in bed trying to fall asleep, or driving in rush-hour traffic, and we’ll remember how that letting-go felt.  And we’ll do it again: the beginning of a new habit, a new way of being.

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