By: Monica Ott
“Let it out and let it in;” The lyrics made famous by the Beatles in the song ‘Hey Jude,’ and a quote I immediately recognized when I saw it posted on my sister-in-law’s picture introducing her new baby girl, my new niece, to the world. When I read this, I felt an instant connection and an understanding of what it takes to invite something new into your life.
The natural cycle and progression of each year starts with a re-birth and a commitment to make changes. Then there’s a transition into a steady routine mid-year that may or may not slip back into old habits. Finally, we wind down to holiday time with the reflection of where we’ve been over the last 12 months. Each year we strive to do better and bring something new into our life, but is it possible to hold space for all of these things without first, making room and letting something go?
The quote struck me, not just because this is my first niece and I’m so excited for the opportunity to be in this child’s life forever, but because it is so simple. That’s not to say that it doesn’t take work for us to get there. It’s hard work to carry a baby for 9+ months and then of course having to deliver the baby. A woman’s body makes space for a human to grow inside of her and then when there’s no room left, the mother gives birth. All of the love that this new baby brings comes with this final push of letting go, of trusting the body’s instinct.
As we were awaiting the baby’s arrival, I started revisiting the Sanskrit term: ‘Apana.’ Apana is the downward and outward flow of energy. It is the opposing force of ‘Prana’ which moves inward and upward. The baby moves down through the birth canal and out into the world. Apana is also a function that grounds us to the earth, brings us in touch with our foundation, and is responsible for governing anything that the body no longer needs in order to be healthy. Apana is the exhale, the release, the ‘letting go.’ The body is designed with this innate intelligence. The hard work is training the mind to do the same.
The elimination of mental stress is crucial to our overall health. When the mind is overflowing with too much stuff, it can eventually overflow and manifest as pain and illness in the body. To avoid this we have to start to incorporate the ‘apanic’ energy into the mind as well. One way to cultivate this is through the breath. When you practice pranayama or sit in meditation, you may notice that the breath naturally deepens. The diaphragm and the lungs continuously make space for each other which results in a bigger breath in and an even bigger breath out. This sends a signal to the brain to follow suit, slow down and also create space. It is in this space where the mind and all distractions can dissolve; a time when stress, habits (samskaras), and trauma can start to release their hold on the body. Allowing this time to go inward, to reflect on what may be weighing us down physically, mentally, and emotionally will give us the how-to and the ability to rid ourselves of it, to let it out. When we do, we have the space to let it in; all the love, joy, and success that we’re seeking.
Apana Mudra: Join the tips of the middle finger and the ring finger with the tip of the thumb. The other 2 fingers remain outstretched. This mudra helps with digestion, brings energy to the liver, gallbladder, and promotes harmony and balance in the body.
When you sit for meditation, try to recall events in your life that bring up emotions. Start to acknowledge them and exhale them out. Continue to do this meditation until these memories no longer have a hold on you.