If I can’t surrender on the mat, how will I surrender off it?

We’ve talked a few times about the Tim Miller story of learning to surrender. As a refresher (and from a post with a similar theme):

He was — if I’m remembering the details correctly — in Mysore and with another student who was stubborn and unwilling to give in, to surrender. Tim makes it sound like a bit of a 1970s American mentality in the guy. He wasn’t going to not be in control of himself.

“What’s the point of surrendering,” he asked Tim.

“To find out what’s on the other side of surrender,” Tim suggested back.

This continues to be a difficult issue for me. (Check out our marital advice blog to see just how much … I kid.) But it has taken center stage in the ongoing battle that Jörgen Christiansson has going with my hamstrings and other less-than-flexible body parts.

On Monday, when he arrived at the shala, I was just moving into the Prasarita sequence. Jörgen got to me at B.

Jörgen’s style is to lean me very far forward, extending the stretch of the hamstring but also surrendering me to his support. On Monday, it was a new extreme. Had he moved, I absolutely would have fallen flat on my head.

I didn’t, of course.

From ashtangayoga.info

When I came up to the transition to C (quick digression, I’m working on bringing a little more lightness, as in levity, to my practice, which is hard to do in the dour early hours, but it is important to understand the next moment), secretly hoping Jörgen would go torture another student, I turned my head to him briefly and said, with a smile, “You know that involves an awful lot of trust, right?”

He said he did, and apparently to demonstrate just how much he understood, he proceeded to adjust me in C and, for the first time ever, get my head to the floor.

Now, I’m sure my legs bent some, although I was working on keeping them straight. And, obviously, having a big strong Thor-like guy helping me along helped me along. But there it was: My head on the floor.

Why? Because of trust. Because I was able to surrender to Jörgen’s assurance that he would be there and wouldn’t let me fall.

Trust, surrender, got me somewhere, benefited me in that moment. In that moment. And that’s a key here, too. It’s a moment on the mat.

But what about off the mat? The real trick, the real challenge, is to bring that same ability to surrender to relationships that don’t just involve someone pulling and shoving on you.

And as hard as Ashtanga is for me, it’s a breeze compared to this obstacle.

But I’m going to keep surrendering on the mat and see if it rubs off at other times, too.

Posted by Steve


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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

7 thoughts on “If I can’t surrender on the mat, how will I surrender off it?”

  1. Thank you for your delightful Ashtanga yoga blog.

    My comments: I’ll begin by asking, have you seen the movie “Lord of the Rings”? There is a scene where Orlando Bloom (who play the invincible fairy”) throws his companions across a crevasse as the cliff is being eaten away by fire and flames. When he gets to the dwarf to throw him across, the dwarf turns to him and proclaims, “No one tosses a dwarf!” and then proceeds with all of his might and jumps across to the other side.

    When it comes to yoga, it is a different story entirely. In order to learn the next pose, I find that the teacher is there to help and guide you. It is a way to learn.

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