Let Go of Stress and Struggle:
Embrace the Law of Least Effort
Most of us were brought up to believe in the Law of Forced Effort and Struggle. Particularly in the U.S., there is a strong cultural belief that success can only be achieved through relentless effort, and endless nights “burning the midnight oil.” If something comes easily, we have a tendency not to value it as much as something we struggle for. Yet if we look at nature, we see that its intelligence functions with effortless ease. In the ebb and flow of the tides, the blossoming of a flower, and the movement of stars, we don’t see nature straining. Birds aren’t led on their migratory path by a coach calling out “no pain, no gain!” They follow their own internal rhythms, which are in harmony with the universe’s infinite organizing power. In the Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga, this is known as the Law of Least Effort, which is the principle that we can accomplish more by doing less if we’re not wasting energy struggling and trying to force outcomes that aren’t ready to manifest.
In yoga, the greatest benefits come from relaxing into a pose rather than forcing your body into it. When moving into a flexibility pose, once you find the point of resistance, rather than muscling your way through this point, breathe. Surrender into the resistance. You will find yourself extending your reach and enhancing your flexibility. Stay present with your full awareness in your body as you engage an attitude of surrender. As in life, patience is a virtue. The more you are able to embrace, rather than fight your limitations and vulnerabilities, the less limits they hold and the more balance and energy you experience.
To enliven the Law of Least Effort in your yoga practice and in your life, make a commitment to take the following steps:
1. Practice acceptance.
In your daily life, practice accepting people as they are, and circumstances as they occur, understanding that every moment in your life is the consequence of every prior choice you have made. Rather than resisting who or what is currently in your life, practice acceptance of what is present and reinforce your commitment to make more conscious choices from this moment on.
During your yoga practice, accept your body the way it is. Although you may have intentions for it to change in some way, accept that how it is now is exactly as it should be, because the universe is as it should be. Give up your need to struggle against the whole universe by struggling against this moment. By acknowledging each situation as it exists, you are in the best position to help evolve it to a new level.
2. Take responsibility.
Having accepted things as they are, take responsibility for the choices and actions that you have taken in the past and those you have available in the present moment.
Applied to your yoga practice, this means making the commitment to nurture your body through appropriate exercise and nutrition. Responsibility – the ability to respond – doesn’t mean indulging in blame or guilt about the state of your body and health. Focus on the response you can make in this moment and remember that every challenge is an opportunity for you to heal, transform, and awaken.
3. Establish your awareness in defenseless.
Don’t waste your life energy defending your point of view or attempting to convince others. Remain open to all points of view without rigidly attaching yourself to any one of them.
This principle is of particular relevance to your yoga practice. There are many different schools of yoga and no one “right” way to practice. Every teacher and every system has its own variations on postures, pace, style, and intensity. As a system dedicated to awakening flexibility in body, mind, and spirit, yoga can accommodate and celebrate the many diverse approaches that have developed over past centuries.
Whenever you find yourself trying to force an outcome that is not ready to manifest, remember the Law of Least Effort and repeat the mantra that resonates with the principle. This mantra is Om Daksham Namah, which can be translated as “My actions achieve maximal benefit with minimal effort.”
Commit yourself to the Law of Least Effort and you will cease wasting your vital energy in friction and conflict. Liberated, this energy becomes available to you for creativity, personal growth, and healing.
Download a free track from the Chopra Center's Sacred Chants CD >>
Purchase The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga book by Deepak Chopra, M.D. >>