I’ve just finished my first real, connected, long, deep yoga session with myself in a while. I’ve been doing yoga off and on for about a decade and sometimes, I feel like I fall away. My journey with yoga has been a great teacher: surprising and challenging. Yoga taught me again today, reminded me of personal truths and inspired me to have faith.
While moving, I felt my body in a way I hadn’t since before I hurt my back in Boston, when I was running. When I was running like I was, I knew my body very intimately. I had to. I had to be mindful of how my muscles felt, how my back felt. I paid attention to how I moved, when I was running and also when I was just using my body. I was mindful that I was eating in a balanced way because even though I wasn’t ultra-marathoning or anything, I was using my muscles enough and burning off fuel fast enough to have to pay attention to things like that otherwise I would feel horrible and be exhausted all the time.
I knew my body, worked it and took care of what I was putting into it in a very intimate way.
It’s been almost a year since I could run like that. I may again someday but that day wasn’t today and it isn’t tomorrow. I still feel quite a bit of pain most mornings and I struggle with a lot of routine movements; healing takes time. But today, I connected with how I used to feel, listening to my body how I used to, through yoga. In yoga, you ask your body to move in certain ways; I gently push my body to go deeper but it’s not in the asking that I connect, but in listening; listening to how my body responds to my request. I listen to what I expect of it and what I accept. What I need and what I support. Is it too tight here? Did that feel right? What happens if we try this alignment? Should I stop here? Please don’t push me so I hurt. Push me so I open.
So I let go. Of doing anything but listening. I wasn’t trying to go deeper for the sake of going deeper. I was going as deep as I could in that position, today. I was pushing myself as far as my body wanted in that moment, today. Bit by bit I opened and in opening, felt more free.
I think how your body feels is a mirror to how you feel in some ways. If I am stressed and anxious if affects my body, my back and hips get tight for instance. It also affects my stomach; I don’t want to eat when I’m anxious. If I am sad and depressed, it affects my legs and my chest. They are heavy and tired. If I feel happy and excited, my chest feels more open and my shoulders light, relaxed. If I’m depressed, I can’t seem to even feel if whether or not my appetite even exists. If I feel hopeful and loving, my chest feels warm and my back open. After I injured my back last year and up and moved suddenly from a place I loved to a place that challenged me, I’ve felt a lot of stress, heartache. I’ve felt some beautiful joy, and hope and gratitude, too. But, there has been a lot of persistent stress and heartache as transition is not instant but a process. I don’t think I’ve taken the time to take care of the body-affects the stress and heartache has caused.
I wasn’t taking the time to listen. I was trying to find work, trying to find a place to live and trying to be a good mom, trying to grow and heal relationships. I abandoned myself in a way.I think we all do from time to time. We give up on ourselves first, to give to our career, or to our lovers or to our children. To our addictions. We say no to yoga or whatever yoga is for you.
Today, I didn’t Today I came back to the mat. And I stretched myself into a place where I could find comfort in my being. Faith in my strength. And grace, in my ability. I existed there for a while, rooting myself while moving, slowly, through the poses. Stretching, ..supporting, ..strengthening ..deepening. Listening.
I remember doing tree, in a way I had never done tree. I remember when I first started doing tree, the balance was tough. But after I started practicing it, which started in the beginning of my time learning from yoga, I learned to balance in it easily. Over the years, I’ve kind of allowed myself to sit in tree without really getting out of my comfort zone. I test myself in many other poses; tree was just one that had become more easily remembered by my body and I’d kind of rest in it during vinyasas. Today, though, I didn’t; I pushed myself to grow in it.
Feeling the energy, from the root of my foundation, stream upward, I lifted, through the strength of my mid-back, up. Up and out of my base through my extended arms and fingertips. I felt the energy strong, shooting up and out through my palms and fingertips. I felt both a lightness in reaching up and a strength in rooting down I hadn’t in a while. In a way I had forgotten.
In that moment, I felt like I could fly. Feeling rooted while lifted, I felt like I could fly. And I thought…this is where you are. This is where you can always be. The stressful events happen. The changes, the volatility, the fear the whatever. It’s out there. But this, this is in here. And to exist out there, you have to grow yourself from this base, this root, this energy. You can fly. You are flying. We are all flying. You lose sight of the sky when you are too focused on anything but this moment. Spend more time in this moment, which is every moment once you let go. You don’t have to stress over tomorrow, you don’t have to rethink the anxiety of yesterday. You can accept what is behind you, have faith in the path you have chosen and continuing soaring into tomorrow, moment by moment.
Shortly after I was done with tree, I began thinking about my experience in it. I stepped out of the moment and started thinking about how I used to feel, about what I might do next. I caught myself and pulled myself back in, trying to practice the lesson I’d just learned about being present now by living it. I smiled, as this practice, of flying, living in the moment, is like that. At least for me, in this moment, on my journey. It’s a practice; and smiling, I am accepting where I am, at this moment.
As the yoga session ended, in the last few moments after 90 minutes of being connected to my body, of pushing and listening, I was surprised by a breeze that came in from the window. My first thought was, I should shut that; my heat is up and it’s a waste. But thought, wait, what’s a minute of staying right here, feeling and connecting to myself to the extra $1 on my bill I’ll see next month? I took a breath and chose to lay connected to my body, listening to what it needed, resting from the time I spent with it pushing, deepening, opening.
Sitting here, writing, I am practicing listening. Listening to what my body needs, what my muscles, my bones, my heart need while I write. Soon I will practice listening while doing what I need to do to get ready to sleep. Tomorrow I'll practice through working. My needs are evolving and changing as I live and grow but how I listen can only deepen. And, how I listen, is how I learn.