On listening (part I).

I want to show you what yoga is to me and teach you something simple.

I remember my first yoga class back in like 2006 – my back was in bad shape after I jumped off a cliff (yea, that actually happened).  I was at my school gym doing a “Yoga for 50+” class, and the grandmas and grandpas in front of me were all touching their toes, back bending, jumping, smiling.  I leaned against the wall and bent my knees to get to the floor, wincing in pain.  I tightened up my shoulders, my stomach, my feet even cramped up.  I’d been dealing with some injuries for a couple of years at that point.  When the teacher asked us to breathe, I was gasping and trying not to let anyone see that I was panicking (oh, this still happens, don’t get me wrong!).

Baby steps.  Let me TELL you how many baby steps it took to touch those toes.  Years of them.  It was a process, but processes are good.  They keep you going and give you something to do.  If everything was a quick fix, life would be boring.  So, you like a quick fix?  Well, then what?

A while back I was sitting on a bus, my stop was coming up and I quickly grabbed all of my things and held on for dear life as we halted to a stop.  I looked over and another passenger looked me in the eyes and smiled at me.  I paused to smile back; it was long enough to relax my shoulders.  I looked out the window and closed my eyes for a moment and realized I felt my heart beating.  I breathed into my belly, paused to notice this beat, and felt it pulsing in my chest, in my diaphragm and out to my limbs.  My feet opened up to the floor of the bus; I smiled.  From 2006 to now, this is how I have learned to listen to my body.  What’s the difference?  The difference is that I CAN do this now.  I choose to do it.  I choose to pause and notice, and that control makes all the difference.  That’s my yoga.

Here’s your homework for the day, to keep that process going:

  1. Notice your breath. Stop somewhere today, whether it be at work in your desk, on the bus, or before you sleep and relax your shoulders.  Is your stomach tight?  Breathe into it.  Notice when you breathe, where it starts and stops.  Do you get stuck in your ribs, diaphragm (do you know where that is?!)?  Can you breathe all the way out to your hands and feet?


Practice makes perfect?  No.  Practice is practice, and that’s wonderful.  That is enough.

Photo credit: Corinne Thrash


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