This is a theme I love to come back to in my teaching. But what does release actually mean in a yogic context? The phrase “let go” is one that many teachers (including myself) use A LOT, but for it to be a guiding principle or prompt in our practice we need to make sure it’s properly understood.
It really comes down to the question - let go of what? It’s that’s not very clear, then being told to let go can feel pretty frustrating and confusing. It’s not like we can instantly let go of the pain of an injured ankle or forget about a sad heart just by entering a yoga class. We can’t make situations magically vanish.
Through our yoga practice we can learn to let go of our reactivity, to let go of what emerges in our minds and hearts as a consequence of the situations that we’re in. We can learn to observe how we’re dealing with certain situations and how we’re talking to ourselves. To notice if we’re holding on to destructive perspectives or looking at life in a constructive way.
In the long run, letting go of reactivity ultimately means letting go of suffering (or at least transforming it). We can cultivate a skill to transform a difficult situation to an opportunity of learning, choosing a path that is more compassionate towards ourselves but also to others.
In our physical asana practice, this means that we try to stay present with whatever feelings and sensations arise while letting go of our reactivity towards them. We move through postures that offer lots of different sensations. The aim is to enjoy the positive feelings that emerge without trying to make them stay forever, and to simply be with the negative ones without running away from them.
As we go deeper in our practice, we strengthen our ability to stay fully present with a wider spectrum of experiences, and not labelling them as neither good or bad. Simply feeling all the feels.