Feeling Graceful?

Finding the Ease

Some days I find it easier to feel more graceful than others! When I think of “grace”, the obvious image that pops into my mind is that of a ballet dancer – smooth, relaxed movements, with a look of calm serenity ever present on their face, no matter the complexity of the shape performed.

Now, I’m not much of a dancer but it would seem that I’ve not been much better at being graceful in my life either! Sure, when life is going reasonably well I can be graceful but when those rain clouds appear, as they surely do from time to time for us all, I have all the grace and elegance of Bambi, his first time on ice.

A great way to start building more grace into your life if, like me, you could do with a little more during life’s tougher times, is through some kind of physical activity, like dancing. For me, I’ve found yoga a perfect way to begin trying to integrate grace into the poses (asanas) first of all and, after some time, that’s really helped me begin applying this to my life off the mat too.

In yoga, the formation of the asanas include both “sthira” and “sukha”, once you have the basics down. Sthira is a Sanskrit word meaning solid, hard, firm, strong, lasting and permanent. Sukha, in Sanskrit, means gentle, ease, pleasantness and mildness. In the poses, we work to achieve both on the mat, grounding down through the spine and the back of the body whilst simultaneously easing our heart and chest space upwards and trying to avoid holding tension in the face and body – so no gritting our teeth and forcing our bodies into positions that it may not be ready for yet.

It’s a bit like the dualism concept of yin and yang in Chinese philosophy – the idea that two opposing concepts can complement and support each other rather than fight one another. To be whole, whether in dancing, sports, yoga or life, you need both to feel whole and well.

In Western yoga, this is often described as “finding the grace”, as grace is a concept more recognisable to us in the West. Holding a pose that you find difficult on the mat, whilst also relaxing your body and face and even smiling despite the strength being used to maintain the pose, is for me, what yoga is all about.

But it’s when you start to make the connection that you can “find the grace”, the strength to face whatever life throws at you with a relaxed, smooth and even calm manner, without adding in unnecessary stress and tension, to your life off the mat too that the tools and practices of yoga (or your physical activity of choice!) really advance to the next level.

Recently, I’ve been able to see this happening in my own life with a few tough weeks over the last month or so. Whether family issues, work, the odd health issue or finances, I’ve pretty much had all of them thrown at me at once and whilst I’m not going to say I found them easy to deal with, I definitely found them easier to deal with when I began trying to “find the grace” in the situation by treating them each like a yoga pose.

With finances, for example, where could I ground into the situation – well by taking a long, hard look at where my money was going. Spending £70.00 the month before on takeaways for 3 of us was completely unnecessary for one! Where could I release tension in the situation? By stopping spending so much on takeaways but not completely restricting myself by maybe cutting out the more expensive takeaways to maybe just a chippy tea twice a month instead of curries/pizzas at a third of the cost.

Another example was to consider if my youngest really needed to go to Breakfast Club anymore which she wasn’t really enjoying and, due to a change in the time she started school this year and the time I started work, grounding into the looking at the cost of this versus the benefit. An extra £60.00 a month for little to no benefit was a complete no-brainer and helped me ease the financial burden I found myself in, again helping to find the grace in the situation.

It wasn’t easy to do these things when I felt completely battered by other things life was throwing at me but I found it far easier to do when I repeated the mantra quietly to myself of “find the ease” and approached each problem like a yoga pose.

Of course, you’ll have to find your equivalent but yoga is a practice I highly recommend. It really can be any hobby. Is there something that you really enjoy doing that requires a certain amount of knowledge and application to perform but that goes more smoothly when you relax into it? Again, examples for me include knitting, cooking and playing guitar or even blogging. How could you apply that to your everyday life?