The art of smooth transition
By Karina Klimtchuk
Notice what you feel in your body when you contemplate “transition.” Perhaps a moment of pause, maybe a sense of bracing that shows up as held breath or rigidity in the shoulders. Maybe a strange sensation of knottiness in the stomach or slight nausea. A feeling like something is about to happen, but you don’t know what it is. And that can be unsettling.
Contemplate the fact that something IS about to happen—all the time! And when the outcome is unknown, we often feel fear. Many of us are constantly worrying about the past or feeling anxiety about the future. Yet the only place life is actually happening is in the present. Cultivating interoception—a lesser-known sense that helps you to understand and feel what’s going on inside your body—is a key element in the practice and teaching of yoga therapy. (Improved interoception, the ability to sense internal bodily sensations, affects physical and mental health in a number of ways.)
Mental responses, physical effects
Fears and anxieties come with a strong response in the body. Besides the physical pains and contortions associated with those feeling states, the fight-or-flight response takes place on a cellular level. (Learn more about the biology of these responses here.) The heart rate speeds up, activating the reptilian brain that doesn’t know the difference between what’s real and what’s imagined. Instincts kick in, and before we know it, we’re running our habitual, reactive patterns.
Now imagine slowing that reactivity down. Like frames in a movie reel, imagine the scenes and emotions gliding past in slow motion. See them moving so slowly that you notice the spaces between the frames. See the frames divided into sections. As you imagine, notice what happens to your breath. Now, allow each frame to sync up with your inhale, and each following frame to sync with the exhale. And allow the spaces between the frames to be the spaces between the inhales and exhales. What would happen if you did this exercise for 1 minute? 10 minutes? One hour?
Transition to space—and calm
The ancient yogis sat in meditation for days. And although that’s not a desirable or feasible lifestyle choice for most people in modern culture, the scientific evidence behind the benefits of meditation speaks for itself. When practicing yoga asana (postures) in a therapeutic context, special attention is given to the breath to aid in smooth transitioning from one pose to the next. Slowing down and really being present with the in-between enables us to find an incredible amount of space. This is an essential foundational practice of yoga.
For example, one meditation technique used in yoga therapy is the practice of breath awareness with an emphasis on the transitional spaces between the breaths. It is that still moment spent in suspension, in transition, that most warrants the meditator’s attention.
In cultivating practices like these, yoga therapy clients can experience benefits such as a calm nervous system, improved energy, and the ability to move through life’s transitions from a place of inner alignment and authenticity. Over time, greater emotional resilience and flexibility develop. We open up to more of who we really are. And instead of reacting and being pushed around by circumstances, we respond to the world from a place of centered calm.
We can say that as individuals and collectively, we are in transition all the time. Each moment is on the way to becoming another and is an opportunity to practice the art of smooth transition. I invite and encourage you to embrace your journey fully—you have your whole life to gain!
Karina Klimtchuk, LAc, DACM, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT, is an integrative healthcare professional with a Doctorate in Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. She works in private practice in Los Angeles, California, teaches Functional and Chinese Medicine, and has been a yoga therapist for 12 years. Find her on LinkedIn.
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“Feeling the wound is healing the wound.” – Bradshaw