It is said in the Quran, “With every difficulty comes ease, with every difficulty comes ease.” The fact that it is recited twice always draws me to reflect upon this statement twice as long, inshallah. I ask myself, how can ease arrive? Is it a natural occurrence? Couldn’t the difficulty continue to build with no ease in sight? Perhaps in the case of tension in the body and in the spirit one could say a heart attack, a panic attack or spasm of a back muscle could be viewed as the body’s way of releasing all the tension. But this is an unhealthy, unconscious release. I believe what Allah has revealed with these lines to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is that difficulties arise and with surrender and reflection, comes ease. It is our job, as aspiring human beings, to think about what Allah is trying to reveal to us at all times so that we might become closer to Him, so that we might have a loving relationship with Him. When we blindly move through our days based on how we feel, how we have believed things to be true in the past, and with our nafs leading the way we are behaving like an animal-purely driven by instincts and desires. Where is Allah in this picture?
So how can ease arrive? A concrete way for me to understand and describe how surrender and reflection occur is to use the body as an example. Say part of the difficulty is a tight muscle in the low back. Yoga is a great way to reveal any lingering tension in the body, because as a massage therapist I once knew used to say “The issues are in the tissues”. What issues can be stored in the low back? fear, lack of control, uncertainty. Whether we go to work, or school or take care of our families at home, situations may arise that cause us to question our ability, our confidence, etc. and so on. In the face of these situation we may begin to hold on for dear life to what we believe we know, or what we believe to be true. Where and how might we hold on? It could be in the form of muscular tension in our gluteal muscles or our back muscles–from the largest erector spinae to the minutest tiny muscles that work between each vertebrae. This tension builds up over time, this tension is not only fatiguing to the muscles but begins to bring our vertebral alignment out of whack. This misalignment alters the signals throughout the nervous system as well as blood flow to the various parts of the body and can even affect the capacity for a full breath which can alter the ability to think clearly among other problems. This doesn’t even account for how tension can bring the energetic bodies to a state of stagnation creating sluggishness. Unconsciously, we are creating difficulty, tension and dis-ease in our bodies and spirits.
How can yoga help help us reflect and surrender to Allah’s will, thereby bringing on ease? It may take time. The first time you lie down on the floor and you bring your knees into your chest as the teacher advises, you may not even be close to holding onto your knees. If you are able to hold onto them, you may be holding on so tight that this simple movement is painful. This is a sure sign that you are creating more tension. It’s the same difficulty that we create when we fight against what Allah wants for us. So, what to do? First of all, we need training wheels, grab a strap that’s long enough to wrap around the back of your thighs. Use the leverage and strength of your arms to draw the knees in and up as much is possible without arching your back or neck.
Similarly, when Allah puts you in a situation that your nafs doesn’t like you can facilitate the ride and put the nafs in the back seat by using tools Allah has provided for you– your Shaykh’s guidance. His/her guidance (the strap) may be to pray Ya Salaam (O Peace) when you are faced with a difficult situation. What begins to happen next is amazing when you consciously pay attention. Whether you are lying on the floor with a strap around your legs or you are reciting Ya Salaam in the face of uncertainty there is a sence of melting. Everything drops, the muscles relax and open, and the grip on the heart releases. You are present-Ease. Over time ease becomes the natural state, inshallah. We always have our strap if we need it. As my Shaykh always says in times of difficulty “Hold onto the rope of Allah and don’t let go”. Huuuuuuuuuuuuuu.