The Power of Dropping
Two months ago, I dropped out of corporate life. I quit my job.
It is something I’ve been wanting to do for quite awhile, and it was finally time. I had sort of a Dr. Jeckel and Mr. Hyde existence with my work. I spent 17 years working for a software company while teaching yoga on the side for the past 7 of those years.
Most of my yoga students had no idea that I was a product manager, and most of my co-workers had no idea that I taught yoga. It was a pretty split life, and though there were definitely cross overs of things between my two professions, switching my brain constantly was a skill I had to cultivate.
Whenever I entered the studio to teach a class, I had to move from corporate brain into yoga-teacher brain, which taught me to very quickly DROP what was going on before class, because I had to BE HERE, in class, with these students and this breath. I think many of us do this when we enter a yoga studio or step onto our mat. There is a conscious dropping of what came before and a dropping into this new experience.
Dropping is a good skill to cultivate.
I don’t mean dropping responsibilities or attention. I mean dropping what came before, feeling the experience of WHAT IS, and then shifting mindfully into what comes next.
When we step onto the mat, we are preparing to move the body into the physical shapes of Asana. Most of us practicing yoga here in the West are doing so to feel better in our bodies, and on some level, to make our lives here in this life, with our families and our communities more meaningful. So as we enter into our practice, the ritual of dropping is a preparation of the body to MOVE into postures, but it’s also a shift toward Dharana, (concentration) and toward Pratyahara (turning inward), two of the limbs of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. For me, it’s also very much the practice of non-attachment, one of the Yamas (moral restraints) in the 8-limbed system of yoga.
Practicing concentration, turning inward, and non-attachment does have its benefits. It helps us feel more whole, more connected, more OKAY with how things are right in this moment, without needing to have or achieve anything.
The yoga mat (or the meditation cushion) is the perfect place to practice the dropping and letting go of what came before.
On the level of the body, in yoga, we can easily get attached to the yoga poses themselves, so the physical practice of yoga is nice place to turn our experience into a laboratory in which we can examine our own patterns when it comes to attachment. How much do we care about the outcome of our efforts? For example, can I consciously work to no longer really care if I can do a handstand or not, but I can still put my full effort into it? That is a practice of non-attachment.
Dropping attachment to outcome doesn’t mean we get to NOT take action. It very much means that we must act. But it does mean that we can drop the pressure a little bit. We can act fully and with great effort, but also with an ease that we are not always in control and we don’t need to be. Things get EASIER when we relax a little.
We can also use the physical practice to stay in the moment. During the active part of a yoga practice, the mind has the movement to focus on…but it can get a little more challenging when we are STILL. We can use the stillness to see how inwardly focused and concentrated we can stay. For example, when I practice just BEING in Savasana, can I be okay with my mind not achieving perfectly zen-like qualities?
We drop, we observe, we respond and act mindfully.
I practiced the Moksha series for about a year or so while I was living in St. John’s, Newfoundland, and there were things I liked very much about that practice. One of them was the “mini-Savasana” in the middle of the 90-minute class. At this point, we laid down on the floor for a one-minute rest. The practice: To DROP, as quickly as we could, what had come in the practice so far. Disappointed in your ability to perform the poses that day? Drop it. Feeling like a rock star? Drop it. Whatever it was…drop it, and get good at dropping.
How quickly I could get over something became a measure of the success of my practice, not whether I could balance on my hands or how well I could do a pose or how quiet my mind felt in meditation.
Teaching yoga while also working in corporate life also taught me to drop things. When I was teaching a class, I HAD to bring the energy. I had to be there for my students and nothing could get in the way. I had to leave work behind, leave all other roles at the door, and just be in the flow of the practice. I still very much feel this when teaching…nothing else matters, everything else drifts away.
In terms of the story of my life, “dropping” out of corporate life doesn’t mean that I just forget about all the things I learned in my many years in that career. All of that effort, learning, connections with co-workers, striving on projects, and all the many experiences I had while I worked in that job are still a part of me, and have added to my full evolution. I don’t need to drop any of that. It contributes to my experiences going forward, and I’m so grateful for that.
And even though I don’t have to drop my corporate brain anymore (or drop my yoga-teacher brain to return to corporate brain), I still have plenty of things to drop in my new full-time yoga teacher life, my life as a wife and mom, and my life as a member of society. I have two teen/tweens who I worry a lot about, and anxiety over the state of my small world in terms of bills, health insurance, and making ends meet, not to mention the wider world filled with daily political shockwaves, oppression, and major natural disasters.
So I get to still practice dropping….it’s a dropping IN to support, to ease, to breath. Let your yoga and meditation be one way to practice this balance of effort and ease.
Try this Dropping practice now.
Set a timer for either 5 or 10 minutes. Lie down on your mat. Place a heavy-ish pillow (like the awesome meditation cushion from TogetherWExpand pictured below) or even place a large bag of rice in a pillowcase to make your own homemade sandbag…something with some weight…on the tops of your thighs.
Now simply let yourself drop down. Let everything go, all your roles, your to-dos, your worries, whatever you’ve done so far in your day. Drop all of that. Drop your body down, your muscles and your bones. Let your legs and arms be heavy, and direct the breath downward. Relax the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet. Use the physical experience of weight and gravity and settling to encourage your thoughts to slow. Stay anchored in the feeling of your breath in your body. When your timer goes off, MINDFULLY and GENTLY re-enter your life with renewed presence.