It’s said that we teach what we need to learn, so carrying the same theme for the yoga classes I lead throughout the week has been a great way for me to grow. I’ll introduce the theme in my Tuesday evening class and by the time I reach my Friday morning practice, I’m practically an expert at it. {ha!}

I recently had the opportunity to share the lessons of surrender.

So what does it mean to surrender anyway? To just give up? Throw your hands up and proclaim, “I’m done!”? Well, maybe sometimes it means that…but that wasn’t my lesson plan. My point was more in line with the beloved serenity prayer. Here’s a refresher:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

When we surrender to things we cannot change, we move into a place of peace and harmony within ourselves. I find this to be true on and off my yoga mat.

As we surrender to yoga poses we allow healing on a deeper level. I loved leading my student’s yoga practice with the theme of surrendering to poses; scanning the body for the places where tension is held, and then consciously releasing those holds in order to come into the pose with ease instead of struggle.

Perhaps you’re in a yoga class and the pose that’s being offered just isn’t right for your body. Do you take the shape anyway? And do you hold the shape and struggle in your body and mind for the duration? Or, do you surrender in the kindest of ways, backing out of the pose a bit or taking child’s pose to enhance your practice rather than enduring it?

So many times I’ll witness a student holding poses with so much intensity. I’ll notice tension in their shoulders and arms, and a tight grimace in their facial expression. The desire to create the appearance of strength causes us to overcompensate when, really, our physical strength is already there in the most beautiful and subtle way.

When I witness this physical struggle, I usually offer the simple cue of “relaxing the facial expression” or “allow the feeling of contentment to be reflected in your expression.” By relaxing the face the body usually follows. When we surrender to our current predicament, we are able to come into the moment with more ease and grace. Of course, there’s still effort being exerted, but we approach it in a completely different manner.

Yoga follows us even when we roll up our mats and tuck them away until our next practice. When we struggle with life events – wanting them to be a certain way that they may never be – we create unnecessary tension in our body and mind. When we surrender and let go, we redirect our focus toward peace and contentment. We begin to trust in our personal strength that is already there in the most beautiful and subtle way.

Yoga teaches us to take the right action at the right time. Perhaps surrendering is an action we could all explore on a more regular basis. We learn to change the things we are capable of changing, and we surrender to the things that are beyond our control.

God, grant me the wisdom to know the difference.