01/17/2012 03:43 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Yoga Journal 21-Day Challenge: Finding Wiggle Room In A Tight Spot

When our good friend, Yoga Journal, put out the call for its 21-Day Yoga Challenge, we knew we wanted to be a part of it. If you do, too, join us by signing up on Team HuffPost's Social Workout page. Or, you can follow along by tracking our progress through daily updates on Health and Fitness.

Part of what I enjoy about a yoga practice is how allegorical the poses can be. A few days ago, Rebecca Urban took us through a series of core-strengthening poses. Many of them will be recognizable to yoga newbies because they are used in other areas of fitness and strength training classes (things like plank). Even before I started practicing yoga, I regularly completed these exercises with the goal of -- I'm going to be honest here -- having a flatter stomach. At the time, abdominal exercises were means to an end and they were associated in my head with the sensation of clenching. I thought of words like "tight," "taught" and "closed."

By contrast, core training within the yoga tradition doesn't focus on the muscles contracting; the emphasis is on openness. Yes, you contract the muscles of your abdomen, but the emphasis is placed on how that opens up the lower back. Instead of putting your attention on what's being tightened or clamped down, consider the places on your body that are allowed to stretch in new ways as a result.

The lesson to be extrapolated is an important one that was so beautifully said by Russell Bishop earlier this week that I won't even attempt to articulate it any better:

Ever heard or even repeated that hackneyed phrase,"Whenever God closes a door, he opens a window"?While I haven't always found that window when the door closed in the past, some part of me has clung to that belief over the years. In my recent experience, I have discovered that it just isn't true: He doesn't merely open a window, He actually opens a universe.

That was a resonant, peaceful message for me. When I felt constrained, I had the power to turn my mind toward the openness I was creating.

If you'd like to follow along, you can sign up on Yoga Journal's challenge site. You can also join Team HuffPost, as a collection of reporters, editors and HuffPost readers (like you!) stretch to meet the challenge.