Saturday, January 10, 2009

Yoga

"As you sit, eyes closed, notice the sensations in your body. Take note of what your muscles are telling you and what your soul needs. With this recognition of the calm inside of you in this moment, stay in this light as long as you can all day," she says. "And when someone threatens to take away the peace you feel inside yourself right now, come back to this moment and remember, that this is your truest self and it is possible to come back to any moment in any day."

So illustrates another of the hundreds of lessons I've learned in yoga. My truest self is this calm inside and I don't have to give it up when I walk out the door. It's a mindset.

This morning I went to a Kundalini yoga class. The Kundalini practice of yoga focuses much on the breath and the organs. Each pose is accompanied by quick, rhythmic breaths that force the abdomen in and out.

Towards the end of class, Liz, the teacher, a 60-something, gorgeous, and petite woman, talked about our true selves, about the spirit within each of us that keeps us alive, keeps our hearts pumping, keeps us present.

During the end of class, it is mostly just lying on our mats, breathing, and being. Beside me a 50-ish woman with dark-rimmed glasses and a tired looking body, started to cry. I heard just a few sniffs as I twisted my neck to the right and saw a tear roll down her cheek and fall on the blue mat.

After class I overheard her telling some of the women that her father died this week. After 93 wonderful years of life, it was just time for him to go. The other women put comforting arms around her shoulders and she said, "I need to deal with this. Yoga seems to be the safest place for me to do that. I was just thinking about how much I miss him."

Another definition of church.

Yoga is not a trend.
Yoga is not a cardiovascular exercise that will drop pounds.
Yoga is not about forcing any movements or tearing muscles or pushing the limits of physical strength.
Yoga is not guaranteed to even make you look any better.

Sure it can be all of those things, but it isn't for me.

I started practicing yoga several years ago in high school, most likely because I heard Jennifer Aniston did it and probably assumed I'd instantly look like her if I did. Hasn't worked quite yet, but I've found much better pay offs any way.

Yoga has made me more conscious of my thoughts, my feelings, and my spirit.
Yoga has taught me to be more aware of my surroundings wherever I am.
Yoga has taught me how to breathe.
Yoga has increased my flexibility and improved my balance.
Yoga challenges me to be alone with my thoughts and accept what comes, accept myself.



Earlier this year, when I got back to Union college, I stubbornly and almost proudly stated to my sister Ashley, "I haven't prayed in months."

Without a second thought, she said, "What if you have?"

"Huh, don't ya think I'd know if I have or I haven't?" I said.

She asked me, "Heather, what isn't prayer?"

I haven't quite come up with an answer to that question and I've really been trying to. What if journaling can be prayer? Or blogging? Or running? Or sitting with a friend? Or watching children play? Or leaves blow in the wind? What if yoga can be prayer?

Prayer, by definition, is communication with whatever a person calls God. For me, prayer is communication with Spirit. And being conscious of what my mind and body can do through yoga makes me aware of the "something" that keeps me alive.

Journaling works for me because I am visual and I like writing.

Sitting quietly watching life reminds me that there is peace and hope, safety, freedom, and justice in places I just might've stopped looking, but Spirit always abides.

Yoga makes me slow down long enough to acknowledge that somehow I'm still alive, still breathing, that my thoughts are powerful, and rest is good. I can be.

At the beginning and end of most classes we say, "Namaste", a Sanskrit phrase which means, "The divine in me honors the divine in you."

Namaste.

"I honor the place in you where Spirit lives
I honor the place in you which is
of Love, of Truth, of Light, of Peace,
when you are in that place in you,
and I am in that place in me,
then we are One."

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