Legs quivering, I breathed deeply in an effort to distract my brain from the aching building in my thighs. Fighting the internal pleading in my head to relax, instead I inhaled and lunged more deeply. Body twisting with palms pressing together, my heart spun open towards the sky. Just hold on a minute longer.
My summer has been spent contemplating such conundrums. Relax or persevere? Give up or suffer through?
I have rediscovered yoga and am giving it more consideration from my dabbling in the past. I am coming to the practice as not just a way to strengthen my body, but to open my heart, my compassion, and contemplate the inner workings of my mind, such as they are.
One branch of the yoga tree that I have become drawn to is Anusara. The concept of Ansuara yoga is to work within specific principles of alignment in order allow energy, chi, prana, your choice, to flow more freely. The heart center must soften in this system of movement and much of the cuing speaks of the opening the heart and softening the heart. Perhaps it’s just a matter of timing that I am drawn to this method of practice at this point of my life. Instilling thoughtful introspection, inspiration, playfulness, and compassion while developing a strong, flexible body helps to create the balance I desperately crave in my body, my heart, and in my daily life.
In my little mountain town there is a handful of talented, educated, and inspiring teachers to study with. My fellow students are athletes, mixed with retirees (although most retirees in the mountains are athletes to be reckoned with). It was on a chilly fall morning that I found myself in the above lunge, breathing heavily, and desiring a natural disaster to end class. The instructor asked us all tuck our tailbones a little more in order to deepen the twist, allowing our hearts to open more fully towards the ceiling. Instead of crumpling into a sweaty, broken heap on my mat, I felt myself lift out of the pose and a smile creep across my face. “Aha!” Chris exclaimed as my body responded to his cue. “You didn’t know your heart was connected to your ass did you?”
Indeed I did not!
It’s these “aha” moments that make the practice so much fun. Open yourself up to change and it tiptoes into your practice. I was no longer waiting for a cartoon anvil to drop out of the sky and crush my teacher as a means to end my suffering. Instead I was joyful, strong and light, and full of energy coursing through my bones.
As in yoga, such is life; instead of the black and white idea of “relax or persevere,” “give up or suffer,” there is a gradient between the two where one can soften into the strength, opening the heart to the joy of the practice so that the “suffering” becomes a welcome challenge to grow in mind, body, and spirit.
To my yoga instructors, my heart, and my ass, thank you. Namaste.