The highest form of control is knowing when to let go.
The Beauty of Control and the Magic of Letting Go
The concept of control has a bad reputation these days, especially among people who are interested in spirituality. It seems like it's more popular to talk about surrender, letting go and going with a flow.
To me it sounds like ruling out an important opposite and, as a result, compromising balance.
What if we proclaimed that dark is always worse than light or North is always worse than the South, and rule out the "negative"? What would happen is that we would lose half of the spectrum. There would be no contrast, and no way of even identifying the light as light since we have no opposite to compare it to.
I believe in embracing both opposites.
Control is important for us to gain mastery of our bodies and minds which is what we attain to do through the yoga practice. There is no way we would ever be able to learn to practice simple and complex poses that benefit the musculo-sceletal, nervous and endocrine systems if we didn't learn to control our position in space and subtle alignment and biomechanics of our physical bodies.
Control is a necessary component to learn to master the mind as well: meditation is essentially about practicing our mental tranquility which is initially a matter of control.
Control is what helps us understand the workings of our breath and how to find a deeper state of inner balance through the use of the breath. In yoga, breath work is called pranayama, which is translated into English as "breath control".
The idea of control is what empowers us to remember that we are all deliberate creators of our lives. And even when it doesn't feel like that, and that things are just randomly happening to us, we can still control how we respond to our circumstances.
Learning to let go is just as important. I see it as a complementary idea of control. Letting go is what happens when we become more familiar with the inner and outer "landscape" of our yoga practice. When at one point the structure of the pose or sequence is clear to us, and we can finally surrender to the experience of yoga, we can finally find peace amidst mental turmoil which can sometimes accompany a place that we find physically challenging. Asana practice is a lot about inducing stress and teaching our bodies to let go - a skill that we can learn to translate into other areas of our lives. Just like finding an elusive point of balance and stability within a hand stand, letting go of overthinking feels a lot like being in the eye of the storm - magical.
Letting go is what happens when we finally begin to figure how the mind works. When we first start meditation practice, we usually face so much internal resistance as we are essentially learning to control thoughts. When we become a bit more experienced, we begin to occasionally enjoy a peek into mental status where control is no longer necessary, and peaceful states occur as if by magic without us having to do much!
When I look at yoga practitioners resting in final relaxation in the end of the practice - in savasana - it's clear to me who is a beginner yogi and who is an experienced practitioner simply by how at ease or tense they are. With time and practice, we learn to deeply surrender which is the ultimate letting go experience. We learn to surrender to ourselves and the process of life, to trust ourselves and to trust life.
Since starting my yoga practice 20 years ago, I realised that yoga styles that are based on biomechanics and precision of alignment are incredible instruments of learning about control. These are fantastic tools of mastering the physicality of the practice in a way that is healing, strengthening and cultivating the awareness of the body.
And over 10 year ago I found a practice that taught me about true letting go and deep surrender, and which I started to offer as a teacher training. This yogic practice is called yoga nidra, and it has an incredible capacity to create awareness of the subtlest layers of your energetic body, clear inner blocks and facilitate emotional release both on conscious and subconscious levels. As a matter of fact, yoga nidra takes you beyond waking and sleeping, beyond both control and letting go.
So let's embrace both control and letting go, and learn to love these two opposites. If either control or surrender scares you, you know what you need to focus on. Luckily, yoga offers abundant possibilities to practice both.