One of my friends does a strange thing. Every time someone is upset, she says, “Sit with it.” At first, I used to think she was eccentric. Why would I “sit” with my anger? Or my sadness? Or my discomfort? I need to express it. I need to act. One afternoon I was very agitated about my work. I was convinced I needed to act now or welcome ruin. “Sit with it,” my friend said. Perhaps I was so tired of my own emotions, I decided to try this ridiculous strategy. I sat with it. As a result, I was forced to give it space, to look at its ugly face. At first this was difficult and humiliating. But the more I felt those emotions without acting on them, the more I understood them and the more comfortable I became with them. An hour later, the situation was still ugly but my mind was quieter. Sitting with it, far from being weird and passive, had turned out to be a sane and active response to triggers.
Sitting with something difficult does the dual work of both releasing us from it and improving our efficacy with it. And sitting with the posture is what we ask you to do in yoga practice too. At first your body resists the discomfort. But sit with it. “For how long should we hold an asana?” you may ask. Until you have truly felt it. Until it has given your emotions adequate space to arise. Until it has allowed you to be present to that emotion. That means breathing normally and observing your feelings without attaching yourself to them. So, your conscious, reasoning mind can be activated more and more. The next time your body resists, sit with the posture, the emotion… till it releases you. And you stumble into a quiet place.