How to Counter the Hardening
Written by: Sophie Trottier
In Ayurveda – the sister science of yoga – we call it the hardening. As we age we can begin to gather experiences, we accumulate and gather harshness, tightness, a tension. It is this hardening that leads to aging. The truth is we can be 90 and still have juiciness overflowing from every part of our bodies. We can be 60 and have joy exuding from every corner of our face. It is the hardening that ages us. It is the hardening that grasps, that tightens, that dries, that scrunches… that causes the wrinkles, the rigidity, the inflexibility.
Through the practice of yoga I have learned how to be a child again. I have been able to step back into the freedom of youth, into all its juiciness, all its joy. It has been the perfect balance, the perfect counter-practice to the intensity of having the hardships of life weigh you down. It is the practice of yoga that has allowed me to counteract the fear, the closing, and the potential dulling of society, of grief, of pain.
By using the following lessons from yoga, we can stay open and remain in this world of curiosity and limitlessness that exists in our youth. By applying these lessons we can release the potential hardening of this wild, deep and wonderful life and step back into childlike freedom.
Potential Hardening #1: Being quiet
A while ago I was living by an elementary school. You could always tell it was lunchtime by the sound of laughter, the screams of joy sneaking through the holes of the gates of the school and into the open windows of my apartment. When you are young and playing, if you lost at tag, you felt that pain deeply — you screamed in agony at the frustration of having lost. When you saw your best friend running towards you at recess, you’d smile and squeal in pure glee, pure joy. As we age we start to repress these noises. We repress the laughter; we repress our voice, these expressions of the soul. As we get older it is seen as obnoxious or as a sign of low self-control to be loud, to scream, to laugh, to make noise. It is met with a gaze of annoyance when you’re on the bus, a gaze of disgust at a restaurant. If we make loud noises we are allowing ourselves to stand out, to be seen, and we are often met with resistance to this exposure. ‘How dare you free that part of your soul?’ the gazes seem to say.
In yoga we are invited to free this repressed, suppressed part of us. We are allowed to exhale completely, deeply, to sigh it out. In yoga we are reintroduced to the sound of our own voice. We are reintroduced to the sound of our own breath. We are reintroduced to the sound of our selves. Through yoga we are once again allowed to make noise! To express! To laugh, to speak, to breathe… to come out of the quiet, to be seen, to be heard! As we become reacquainted with our voice, with our noises we are able to bring it off the mat. Once again we are able to laugh fully, with our whole body; we are comfortable with shouting in pure joy when we see a friend. As we release this block, this hardening, we are, once again, free to express our truth, to reveal ourselves.
Potential Hardening #2: Fear of Failure
As a child we fearlessly fling ourselves into trees and into situations that have a huge potential of completely destroying us. We try everything and anything. We jump into waves headfirst, we dive, we try headstands in water, on sand, in our home. We jump off rocks, we try new ways of drawing, new activities, we open ourselves fully, and we open ourselves fully into love. Because we are in school as a child we are in this constant state of unknown, of learning, so we are fearless when faced with failure in all other facets of our lives. We don’t care that we’ve never done a back flip because we also never added 4 and 4 until that morning.
Since being in my twenties I have found myself sticking to the hobbies, the activities, the passions that I developed and fed in my youth. As a child I spent hours dancing, doing yoga, painting. I would spend days writing, taking photographs, rhyming and singing. These are the activities I have continued to do as I have aged. These are my passions so of course it is beautiful to work on the things that set your soul on fire. However I have noticed as I have aged that I have a resistance to trying something new. To trying something that I am not already good at.
The only exception to this resistance, this fear of failing, is in yoga. Within the world of yoga being a failure is the only way to grow. It is when the deepest changes occur. We learn that the only way to improve our practice is by going into the unknown. By trying. By seeing if I put my leg here and my arm there, can I hold it? Can I balance? You can’t get there without trying, without taking the risk of falling out of the pose. You cannot see your limits without attempting to break them.
As a child, the world is infinite, because we are learning everything. Nothing is set and everything is new. We are expansive and capable of anything. Through yoga we are able to come back to this openness, this fearlessness, this limitlessness. You can do anything and you can be anything. And you have your practice to make it happen.
Potential hardening #3: Being serious
“Life is too important to be taken seriously!” – Oscar Wilde.
In yoga we have to be able to laugh at ourselves. In a yoga class you are doing poses, breathing, making noises, falling, accidently touching people next to you… of course things are going to get silly!
Off the mat and as we age we tend to be constantly in this mindset of perfectionism. We are trying to control our lives and control the way others see us. Constantly attempting to complete a never-ending to do list. Through this constant achieving mindset, this external focus, we tend to get oh so serious. We can begin to dim our light, to scrunch, to hunch, to take up as little space as possible.
Through yoga we re-enter a state of expansive being. In yoga we are taught to take up space. To expand beyond the limits of our bodies. To feel and be ourselves completely. To let love fill our bodies, from the tip of our nose all the way down to the very tips of our toes. Through yoga we are able to let go of the hardening, to step into the joy and juice of youth.
Regardless of our age, our life can be free, our life can be expansive, our life can be fluid. Regardless of our age we can be filled with laughter and joy. By shedding the grasping and the limits of the hardening regardless of our age, our life can always be oh so juicy!