Let It Go
´Just let go. Let go of how you thought your life should be and embrace the life that is trying to work its way into your consciousness´
It is so easy to say and yet sometimes so hard to do. Letting go is actually a really profound process, not just something that happens in an instance. It is a journey, like shedding your skin. I think the expectation of being able to let something go in an instant increases anxiety in us to hold on even more.
Every time I step onto the yoga mat to practice or to teach, I remind myself that this is my ‘shower on the inside’- a cleansing process that will bring up my resistance to letting go, but that will also be the medicine to soothe me and ultimately help me to release what I’m holding on to. Off the mat, I am constantly practicing letting go, mainly by being a mum, watching my children become young people, with all of the hormones and changes that come with this growth. For me, parenting is now all about presence and stepping back to give my sons the space they need to feel, discover and experience who they are.
Through my work with teens I am also seeing the benefits of them being able to experience and express themselves. Last week I had an amazing yoga & health session with teens at The Dream School in Barcelona. We were talking about mental health and the ways in which we cope when we are stressed. Not only was it incredible to witness them openly communicating about their internal struggles, but it also made me think how helpful it would have been for other generations to have been shown the tools to identify stress and discover what stress was all about, to be able to discover how powerful letting go as a practice is to release and healing stress at an early age.
Stress can be so deeply rooted in the emotional, physical, mental and spiritual body that we may not even be aware of it and so it manifests itself as a constant dull ache or recurring illness in the body. Once we are able to identify the source of our pain, it is then possible to learn tools that might help us to relieve physical and mental pain. Meditation can be one such tool.
At the age of 18 whilst at dance school, I began to practice meditation as a way to let go. Feelings of inadequacy and competitiveness were consuming me and I needed a way to release this stress and understand how to be my own kind of greatness.
My ex-husband and I taught our sons from the time they could walk to learn how to let go by focusing on their breath. Other parents would look at us as if we were mad but I can tell you for a fact that my boys have a deep understanding of not holding on, they say 'At home, we are so chill', but I remind them that they were brought up to chill and when I am holding on to something they are the first to say 'Mum, just breathe and let go’!
In yoga class I sometimes call on the teachings of Marieanne Williamson who suggests we might 'Put it in God’s hands' - whatever you are holding on to, whatever you are stressed about, whatever you feel you need to change or desire, just drop it all in God’s hands and see what happens. This is not necessarily about religion, but the ability to place our worries outside of ourselves and to trust in doing so, so that we might not be consumed and so that we can step back, to be able to make space for peace and positive action.
We can change a grievance into a miracle just by stepping back. It's not about letting go of your ego, the ego is part of who you are; it's about exploring and letting go of your thoughts about yourself, your personal agendas, inner conflicts and expectations, and yoga class is the perfect place to do this. On the mat, I have been using breathing exercises we yogis call ‘Pranayama’ to cleanse and to inspire the act of letting go. This is not just cleansing on a physical level, it also works to remove anything that needs to leave the whole body.
In yoga, we refer to the ‘whole body’ which means our physical, emotional spiritual and mental bodies. With this in mind, I ask my students in certain yoga poses to take big inhales with their mouths closed and then open their mouths and breathe it all out. You don't need to know what it is you are sighing out, just do it because this is a connection with your whole body that really does liberate you.
Your yoga practice is there to help you let go of self-consciousness and through playful practice we can lighten up a bit. I use music in all my classes to inspire students to enjoy their practice and get lost in the body. Yesterday in a class I was teaching, we just jumped up and down on the mat and I said the same thing that I say to my yogi toddlers 'shake your sillies out! I really mean just that- shake out your sillies and get the blood rushing through the body- risk looking a bit weird because I promise you someone else in class is probably looking weirder than you and possibly has lots of stuff to let go of.
Something that always humbles me on the mat is acknowledging that everyone has their own battles and a way to relieve ourselves of the weight of carrying these battles is to get a bit silly in class, to laugh, to play and ease off and acknowledge we are in this together. Too many times I see people in yoga class bringing that same stress from their lives into class, of trying too hard to achieve a pose perfectly or pushing themselves when really all they want to do is ease off and breathe. My aim is always to create an environment where people feel good about not 'doing it all', where they feel safe to shake their sillies out without making other people feel uncomfortable.
Ultimately, our yoga practice should be to liberate ourselves of all that is standing in our way of feeling good and living our potential. If we could just give ourselves the gift of a really good TIME OUT from ourselves .... we could give space for the magic to rise and manifest from the inside OUT.
Lucy Beckwith is a qualified Yoga teacher and Co-Founder of the Yomu Project.