I have been focusing on how to soften in my asana practice for about 15 months, applying new techniques that facilitate this process as I come in contact with other practitioners who hold a similar focus in their movement practices. I have tried to move more slowly, mindfully, and in unison with my breath during transitions, and more recently I have begun looking at where I hold unneeded tension during my daily Asana practice. Actively asking if I can release certain areas where tension is not necessary has facilitated a deepening into the postures themselves, softer breathing patterns, and an overall sweeter, if not more prayerful, disposition in my practice as a whole.
Perhaps more importantly, however, has been the way that engaging in this sort of asana exploration has affected my life off the mat. I have found that this type of inquiry has fostered, to some degree, a similar thought pattern when I find myself in stressful situations – “do I need to hold onto this tension here or can I let it go?” When I have the wherewithal to ask this question, or when the question apparently asks itself because I have consciously practiced this thought pattern during my Yoga practice, the answer inevitably is “no, please let it go.” Through this realization that I can soften in response to tension, there emerges some memory of who I really am, what I long to connect with and how I would like to interact with the world at large.
Indeed, Yoga is not about staying the same and repeating the patterns of thought and movement that do not encourage our continued growth. To a large measure, it is about change, finding the softest part of our being in the most uncomfortable of situations and fundamentally altering the way we interact with the world at large. This transformation happens at its own pace, typically with fits and starts. But with consistent and prolonged practice it occurs, and perhaps then we slowly, but more fully, begin to embody and honor our highest ideals.