“Give it up,” my yoga instructor said.
I was on my back and Sara had my right shoulder pinned to the floor. My right hand was wedged between my shoulder blades with the palm facing down. Pain stabbed the outside of my upper arm and I winced.
“It really hurts.”
“Thank you for sharing,” she answered in that zippity-do-dah voice, her standard retort to my whining.
“No,” I explained through clenched teeth. “I think you may really be hurting my arm.”
“I promise it won’t break.” She was on her knees straddling me, both hands on my shoulder. She leaned forward to increase the pressure.
“Oh God,” I whimpered.
“Give it up,” she said softly. “Stop pushing back. Let me move your shoulder to the floor so your chest will open.”
I’d started coming to Sara to get rid of the constant soreness down my outer arm, a sharp pinching that sometimes reached clear to my elbow. She’d explained that the source of the pain came from my shoulder rolling forward because my chest wasn’t open. I was holding myself in a protective posture: chest sunken in, shoulders guarding my heart. (“From what?” I’d asked. “You tell me,” she’d answered, eyebrows raised. A good yogi doubles as therapist.)
Which is how I came to have her hovering over me as if I’d just lost a wrestling match. I tried to cheat by sliding my hand to the left to relieve the pressure, but the rubber mat under me was like a rodent glue trap. I grew panicky. “I want to come out. Can I come out?”
Sara stopping pushing my shoulder, but she didn’t move to get off me. She cocked her head, studied me for a moment.
“What do you think the word ‘surrender’ means?” she asked.
“Quit. Lose. Give up,” I said.
She laughed. “Oh my, no wonder you don’t want to surrender. How about meanings like ‘yield’ and ‘accept’? To cease resisting?”
Hmm. Those definitions were new to me.
“I’m not telling you to give up,” Sara continued, “I’m telling you to give it up. The fighting. The gripping. It obviously isn’t working. So why not try surrendering? See where that leads.”
I agreed to try.
Sara pushed down on my shoulder. I braced myself and felt the familiar stab to my arm. Then I willed myself to let go, even though I didn’t want to, even though I was afraid. My shoulder slowly slid to the floor, like butter melting off a biscuit. My chest rose up and out, my collarbones spreading apart and leaving what felt like a canyon of space. Into it my breath flowed and I felt light and open, something I never knew I was missing until then. And the pain in my arm had vanished.
“Wow,” I whispered. I thought I might cry.
Sara released me. “That was important work.”
Indeed. I’d learned something fundamental about myself: I make life harder simply because I don’t surrender to what comes my way.
I wondered what other blessings awaited me if I quit resisting. If I let go of fear. If I trusted that all was unfolding as it should. And accepted what was brought to me as a gift I would ultimately cherish.
By: Julie Long