The Art of Decompressing

To quote yoga teacher Darren Rhodes: “You’ve got to be able to handle compression.”

He likens this concept to the air inside a tire. There’s a lot of compression in that tire, but because of the way it handles it, it isn’t crushed. It can roll with it, if you will.

I’m in the midst of learning how I handle compression on a new level. It’s been a challenging year full of twists, turns and transitions that seem to go on forever. My old resources for staying full and balanced have been mostly unavailable, so I’m navigating new territory in a new way and quickly finding holes in my tires so to speak.

The idea of managing compression reminds me of scuba diving. Divers can dive deep fairly quickly, but they must surface much slower. The diving compresses their lungs and the rising to the surface decompresses them, but this decompression takes time.

The compression that happens in many yoga poses is often supported by an inner buoyancy that supports our inner body even as our outer body becomes compressed. When backbending, for example, we keep our back body full energetically to support the compression of bending backwards.

We get better at handling these polar opposites – staying full while under pressure – through practice, practice, practice. In yoga we practice the same poses over and over, not to get better at them but to get better at us; to get better at staying attentive to what happens as we move into poses we like and poses we don’t like, poses that feel liberating and poses that feel compressed.

In life we practice staying attentive to what happens when we move into situations we like and situations we don’t like, situations that feel free and situations that feel compressed.

This begs the question, what supports us when we’re compressed? The air supports the tire. The air is what re-inflates the diver’s lungs as they rise to the surface. For us humans it’s Prana, or our vital life force, that supports us when life begins to get intense. That’s the air in our tires.

I find love to be a great source of Prana, both the giving it, the receiving it, and the embodying it. It’s so healing, so filling, and so powerful yet unassuming. Ironically when we feel compressed (read stressed, burdened, or tired) love is sometimes the last thing we feel we can tap into.

Thankfully it often comes tapping on the window of our soul and asks to come in. When I soften to that invitation I fill myself up, find I feel more alive and, like that diver rising to the surface, I learn that decompressing is often more a practice of allowing than one of forcing.

As I continue on my journey of learning to handle compression I hope love keeps tapping at the window of my soul, reminding me that receiving, giving and embodying love is what will support my inner being when my outer being feels compressed; and that embracing these polar opposites is what will allow me to ride through life come what may.