Tap Into the Power of Letting Go

An allowing practice to give your body the time it needs to let go of tension, to release, to stop holding on so tight.

We’re going to continue on our mindful movement path this session by practicing letting go and allowing. So how do we do that? Well, physically, we’ll focus on forward bending. This is how we’re going to create the physical sensation of letting go: allowing our body to just be heavy, to really drop into the floor.

As we’ve been exploring over the past three sessions, our mind follows our body. When our body is in a state of agitation, so is our mind. When our body is tense and tight, oftentimes, our mind operates in a tense and tight manner. So, by focusing on our body, acknowledging the state it’s in and then working to shift that state, we can often feel a similar change at the mental and emotional level, too.

So this session is about letting go and allowing—and really being still and pausing. We’re going to allow our body the time it needs to let go of tension, to release, to stop holding on so tight. These poses may feel a little bit longer for that reason. Go with it.

Remember: It’s not about getting anything right or being perfect. Continue to listen to your body—it is your teacher. I’m just here as your guide. If there’s a pose that’s too much, listen to your body and ease up. This is also relevant for the rest of our lives, as we walk through the world: in any situation we can tune into the body and work with what we find there.

Research shows that moving our body mindfully increases GABA—a neurotransmitter that helps us to feel more calm and quiet. Rhythmic breathing, mindful movement, a steady gaze: it’s a perfect recipe for establishing a calm, stable mind and body.

Tapping into the Power of Letting Go

Tapping into the Power of Letting Go

  • 14:35

1. Let’s begin, as we have done, with synchronizing body and mind through breath and movement. Separate your feet in a comfortable stance and inhale, reaching arms forward and up. Exhale, moving arms out and down. Take the whole breath to get there—aim to move in rhythm with your breath. Now let’s change it up to side stretches. Taking nice, long, deep breaths as we exhale, swaying left. Then inhale back to centre. And exhale as we lean right. This is coherent breath. Now, hands to our knees like a baseball player. Take a deep hinge at the hip and really send your bum back. Reach your arms back and before going anywhere, tie up that corset around your waist by pulling your navel back to your spine. This protects your lower back. Inhale, rise and reach your arms up and back. Exhale, crouching again, arms back.

2. Bring elbows to knees for downhill skier. Look down at your thumbs and pull hips back a little more. This is a really healthy way to flex your spine. Now pulling navel to spine: this creates a pocket of air at your lower back, which protects your lumbar spine from flexing too much. Even if you have some lower back issues, you can do this safely. If it feels like it’s too much, just bring hands to knees. Let’s hold and breathe in the skier position for a few moments. Nice, deep, coherent breaths. Now relax your neck, relax your gaze. One more breath, and bend your knees a little more.

3. Let’s carefully come down to the floor, on to our backs. Pull your right knee to your chest. Interlock your fingers beneath your knee and squeeze your knee to your chest. As you do, your left knee may buckle a little bit, and that’s OK. Pulling your thigh to your chest like this provides flexion of your spine and your hips. Take a deep breath in and out here. You can close your eyes now or set your gaze upon one spot on the ceiling. Just allow everything you’re not stretching in this pose to relax—in other words, relax your left foot, facial muscles, right foot. Take two more breaths holding this flexed position.

4. Place your left foot on the floor and straighten your right leg to the ceiling. Hold your right calf and just gently pull it overhead. This can be a very small move; no forcing necessary. In fact, this mindful movement may reveal our frequent tendencies to force or try too hard or to fix things. And what we do here in our body is often reflected outwardly in the rest of our lives. Release your right leg all the way down now, slowly. Straighten both legs on to the floor and let’s pause. Tune inward. Does your right side feel any different from your left? It may or it may not.

5. Now for the left side: pull your knee into your chest. Interlock your fingers beneath your left knee, and hug. Again, your can have eyes closed or focused on one spot on the ceiling. What can you relax here? Scan your body for areas where you’re tense. Perhaps it’s your shoulders or face or hips. Try even relaxing your eyes. What does that feel like? Squeeze your left knee in just a little bit more, and bring your right foot to the floor. Straighten your left leg up and hold on to the back of your knee or your calf. We’re not doing too much here—this is just a gentle pull to open up our hamstrings. The goal in this practice is to always allow ourselves to be at ease physically and mentally while still challenging ourselves. We don’t always have to be in high gear. Now let’s straighten both legs out and pause, noticing any differences. Notice where there’s tension and see if you can let that go.

6. Place both feet to the floor for what we call figure four. With your left foot on the floor, take your right ankle to the top of your left knee. It’s OK if you want to stay right here; this may be enough for you. The next step, if you wish, is lifting your left foot off the floor and reaching around the back of your left knee. Your right hand goes through your legs here. This will provide a nice stretch in the right hip. Once you get into the pose let everything else relax. Focus on your breath for a few moments. Now the other side: left ankle on top of your right knee; lift your right foot and thread your left hand through your legs, reaching around the hamstrings or the shin. There’s nothing to force here, and there’s no perfect state to achieve. Notice your breathing; notice any sensations. Give yourself a little more of a squeeze if you like, and take a final breath in this pose. With this slow, mindful movement we’re heightening our mental awareness of our body—we’re building body-mind connection.

7. Place your left foot down and separate your feet a little bit wider on the floor. Let’s take our arms out to our sides and allow both knees to fall to the right. We’re doing a gentle dynamic twist here. Bring knees back up to the centre, and then down to the left. This is a great move for our hips.

8. And now let’s straighten our legs for our final restful star pose. Arms resting at our sides, spin palms up toward the ceiling. Close the eyes and allow this sweet pause. Feel the ground beneath you fully supporting your body. The act of letting go is as much a practice as anything else we do, and for many of us—including myself—we’ve become unaccustomed to doing it. It’s great to practice here, then, letting go over and over again. It’s in this way that we can become more skilled at letting go of the ways we think things need to be or should be. Maybe we can catch ourselves when we’re forcing or trying too hard. Simply notice where tension is living and notice what it feels like to let go of that tension. Take a final couple of breaths here, noticing what it feels like to be in your body in this moment. 

9. Slowly make your way up to a seated position. You could bring your knees into your chest and roll over to one side to do this. Whichever way you do it, come all the way up to sitting. Open your eyes. Notice any shifts in your state of being. You don’t have to put words to it. Just notice. 

Thank yourself for practicing today. It’s been such an honor to lead you through these mindful movement sessions. Remember that this coherent state we’ve been learning about is just a few breaths away—anywhere, anytime. When we drop below the level of our mind into our body, it gives us great power to shift our state of being. We can transform frazzled into a state of calm and being at ease, no matter where we are. I invite you to keep moving your body and to keep sharing your clarity and calm out there in the world.

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About the author

Cara Bradley

Cara Bradley is a leading authority on mental fitness having led thousands through her signature strategies of how to work and play in flow. She shares her 30+ years of body-brain training with Fortune 500 companies, start-ups, and premiere college sports teams. Cara’s expertise includes science-backed tools to enhance coherence and awareness through mind training and priming the nervous system and gut-brain connection. She is the author of On The Verge: Wake Up, Show Up, and Shine, founder of the award-winning Verge Yoga Center, and host of the On The Verge mental fitness podcast.

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