The Choice to Be Struggle Free: Yoga Journal Day 1: Intensives with Ana

I have to admit that it felt a little bit like Christmas morning today when I woke up. The start of three full days of yoga at the Yoga Journal Conference!

The first thing I noticed this morning: something in my practice must be working on mellowing my Type A personality. At 8.20 (class started at 9), I was still traipsing around the apartment grabbing props, spraying down my mat (still working on perfecting the manduka stickiness), and throwing on clothes just coming out of the dryer - and I was completely unphased that none of these things had been done with any sort of structure or proactive planning.

On the way out of the house, I gently dropped my work blackberry in a drawer. Yoga Journal only comes to town one weekend a year.

2012 Yoga Journal Gear
Perhaps part of my comfort this year is that I have now practiced with Ana many times. The woman who looks so stern in her pictures and whose frankness can be startling - that woman is also incredibly kind. Tough as nails, for sure - but with a heart that makes you melt a little with her sincerity and genuine concern. I always learn something when I take a class with her. And it is usually a big something.

While I will be attending her classes each day of the conference, I was most excited about today's session with her. I have done significant intensives with Ana, but never 5 1/2 hours of asana in one day.

And today's theme was Struggle Free Yoga. 

Ana helps a student in twisting pigeon, Friday Intensives. Photo courtesy of Yoga Journal Conferences

This really should be my theme every day. And it is at the core of Forrest Yoga. For such a fierce practice, Forrest sequencing and poses really do attempt to minimize pain and struggle in asana and in the emotional aspects of your life that you bring to the mat. But the practice itself can only do so much, the real work has to be internal.

One of my friends, Megan, recently did a post on her blog, The Beauty Report, about what yoga means to people in one word or phrase. When she asked me for my opinion, I went with my first gut response:


For lots of reasons. Yoga makes me feel at home in my body, with my emotions, and with the uncertainty of this life that we all live as human beings.

I need to focus on making that home more struggle free - in more than just my yoga practice.

The physical act of an entire practice devoted to having less struggle is important. Ana started her class today as she did last year when I attended. She asked anyone with notebooks or cameras to put them away. Her words:

I want you to learn this with your cell tissue. If you forget what I say, that's okay. I want you to feel to remember it.

Being struggle free is about meeting your edge - acknowledging it - and respecting it.

Struggle free is not the same as easy.

It is the proactive choice to be kind to yourself and to push only to the point of progress without pain.

Hard work is different than struggle.

I have to remind myself that every day. Yoga helps me know the difference - it's what keeps me coming back to practice.

To home.

(And now - time for bed. Because let's face it. No one ever does 5.5 hours of yoga with Ana and says that they aren't tired.)