Picture by Monica Felix @ monicafelix.com

The exit is part of the posture

Picture by Monica Felix @ monicafelix.com

Picture by Monica Felix @ monicafelix.com

Every yoga pose contains four essential stages.

Setup, transition, asana and exit.

But in our laziest and most impatient moments, we only practice the first three. Because exiting the posture requires mindfulness, alignment, focus, patience and understanding. And after sixty seconds of twisting our body into a sweaty yoga pretzel, we’re so tired and cramped and hot, that the last thing we want to do is come out gracefully.

And so, in those final ten seconds, we simply give up. Our posture collapses. Tired eyes drop to the floor and weary legs flop out like rag dolls.

Kathump. Screech. Dang it. This pose sucks. Where’s my coconut water?

I’ve been practicing yoga for eight years, and I still botch the exit almost every time in standing head separate leg. It’s just too much work. Consider this excerpt from the instructor dialogue:

Maintain your grip, abs engaged, keep your chin down, eyes stay open, exhale slowly, stay in control, push your big toe down into the floor, round up slowly, inhale slowly, keep the arms straight by the ears, turn ninety degrees, face forward, legs back together, exhale slowly, let the sweat drip, stand perfectly still.

Who has time for all of that?

But then I remember what my teacher once told me. The exit is part of the posture. It’s not some optional extra bonus movement at the end of the pose. It is the pose. How we come out is just as important as how we go in.

It’s not just a yoga lesson, it’s a life lesson. In any endeavor or project or task or relationship, there are similar stages.

Setup, transition, asana and exit.

We may not use those exact words to describe them, but the stages still exist. And we do a disservice to ourselves and the people around us when we leave out that last crucial step.

Learn to come out of posture gracefully. Follow through with mindfulness, focus and patience.

The coconut water will still be there when you’re done.

Scott Ginsberg is a writer, daily practitioner and workstudy volunteer at Bikram Yoga Park Slope.