How Do We Hold Steady in Overwhelming Moments?

Yesterday I had the delightful experience of co-teaching a workshop with my dear friend, Colleen Clemens, PhD, at Shine Yoga Center in Perkasie, PA. Twenty inspiring yogis and yoginis attended our "Yoga in an Overwhelming World" workshop. Through reflection and vinyasa and yin practices, we studied the yogic concepts of sthira (steadiness) sukha (ease) and explored how to hold steadiness and ease in overwhelming moments.

We began by asking two questions: (1) what does overwhelm feel like? and (2) what does steadiness feel like? People described overwhelm as feeling heavy, fast-paced, nonstop, frantic, uneasy, and frenzied. In contrast, steadiness felt like focused, contentment, peaceful, and grounded.

Next, everyone set a personal intention, a word or phrase that embodied the ideas of steadiness and ease. When we bring intention (sankalpa) to our poses, we amplify their innate power to steady and synchronize our minds and bodies.

Similarly, when we practice intention setting off the mat, we call to mind our heartfelt desires and place our attention on what we want to create in our lives.

With intentions set, we began our asana practice. I taught a 40-minute vinyasa practice. As we flowed from pose to pose, I asked students multiple times to use the power of their intention to find steadiness in challenging poses.

If we can train ourselves to breathe and use intention during uncomfortable and challenging moments on our mats, I believe we can also learn to do so in our fast-paced and often frenzied lives.

As we built heat and the students moved together to the rhythm of their breath, a collective energy of steadiness filled the room. I could not help but feel my own sense of ease and steadiness flourish as the beautiful energy in the room expanded. My students looked calm, focused, and grounded. We were steady.

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After a heat-building standing practice, Colleen led a purifying yin practice. As students held each pose for 2 minutes, Colleen spoke about sukha. She guided the class to release into each pose with as much ease as possible, and she challenged everyone to stay in the pose despite physical or mental discomfort.

If on our mats we can practice not running from discomfort but rather find a way to rest easy in it, then we can learn to do the same in overwhelming moments. If we can remember our breath and intention, we have a chance of calming overwhelm and redirecting our energy toward steadiness and ease.  

After a restful savasana, we all came together, seated and hands at heart center. In silence, we enjoyed a moment of steadiness and ease. The sun had set and the room was dim but also bright with the communal energy we created and shared during our 2 hours together.

Colleen and I closed the workshop with the gift of grounding stones for each student. Although intention setting is a fantastic tool for grounding in overwhelming moments, sometimes life is so full, so stressful, and so overwhelming, that it is not easy to think straight. Accessing the wherewithal to set and then hold an intention does not always feel possible (although, with much practice I believe it is).

For those moments when we can't hold an intention in our minds, grounding stones allow us to hold an intention in our hands—literally. We invited the students to symbolically place their intention in their stone and carry it with them when overwhelming moments make it difficult to hold a positive thought in their minds. For me personally, my grounding stone is a tangible reminder of my innate goodness and strengths.

When the workshop was over, I was filled with gratitude for the opportunity to share yoga with the Shine community. Co-teaching with one of my closest friends was a special and unforgettable experience.

It is my hope that everyone who attended our workshop feels a touch more steady today, that they are moving through their day with ease, and that they have a new appreciation for their innate power to practice sthira and sukha in their lives.

Keep shining, Shine!

Do you want to learn more about the yogic concepts of sthira and sukha? Read this article by Yoga International.

Colleen and I will be teaching this workshop at Twisters Wellness Center in Erdenheim, PA, in January. I hope you will join us! Learn more and register.