Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Yoga's simple lessons

Knees tucked, ribs pressing in, neck loose and arms draped, I am aware this morning of far I've progressed in my yoga practice in simple child's pose. Now it's so comfortable, so comforting and a true resting position. When I first began, I shutter to think, it was painful. My derriere was inches above my folded legs and my lower back could not, would not relax. For 14 years, I've gently eased myself into the pose. No small accomplishment in my book. Certainly, I've had my heyday of arm balances, wheels and head stands, but this basic stance has taught me so very much: humility, gratitude, acceptance, surrender, confidence, joy and love.

Bowing to anything in not intrinsic to our Americanized, individualistic natures. You do it often enough, however, and it becomes second nature, even welcome. I recall a time when, out of yoga, my body moved of its own accord, which I later discovered was something called body prayer, and into child's position. The journey there was not conscious, but what I needed and where, I believe, Spirit called me. On bent knees as willing servant.

Lowering ourselves physically, such as into child, pushes our ego down, allowing us to become pliable and able to see all of the gifts we have received. We're grounded with a shift in perspective and more able to become and express our thankfulness.

Being humbled and filled with gratitude gently sets me in the frame and place to be tender with myself, where I am and any limitations. Yoga teaches me to accept myself in any given moment. Being curled around the heart connects me to my lost, lonely and wounded inner children. I am able to identify them, rescue some and befriend the others unaltered. There is a freedom in accepting oneself where, when and how we are.

The world neglected to teach me to surrender; in fact, I think it's message was quite the opposite. Yoga slowly works its soft magic on me, wrapping my mind, body and soul into bits of release, so minuscule that I barely notice until there's an accumulation and, bingo, I desire to surrender. That darn ego strongly resists strongly, but the wisdom of the patient path matches its force, softening ego over time.

Lowering oneself to the floor as an act of humility, oddly enough, can instill a peaceful surrender that, for me, fosters a deeper knowing and trusting, releasing a confidence I had forgotten. The confidence I had as a kid! Practicing yoga for 14 years, with good days, off days and an aging body, shows me my inner and outer strength. Never an athlete, yoga tones my mind, body and spirit and guides me toward inner strength and power.

There's no greater joy than creeping up to the mat in pain, tight or stressed and leaving it refreshed, stretched and carefree. At the end of nearly every practice, when I raise my hands overhead and pull them down into prayer position, I see a slice of green, representing the heart chakra. Yoga nearly always leaves me blissful no matter how grumpy, sad or poor in spirit I began.

The stillness of yoga, in my experience, transforms the heart appreciably in one sitting and, greatly, over time. It is the core of my practice physically, mentally and spiritually. I came to it out of injury, yet continue if for health and well-being. It's slowness roots, calling me to humility, gratitude, acceptance, surrender, confidence joy and, eventually love, but, especially, self love.

Never could have imagined all those years ago, struggling to get my butt down without hurting my sacrum, that this posture mimicking a baby would open so many doors, especially those stuck within my heart.

• Which practices have helped me grow spiritually?
• How does movement or a physical practice open me?
• Have I considered something I already do, such as yoga, running, swimming, etc. becoming a spiritual practice with the intention of creating space for Spirit?
• How could that work for me?
• How does it already clear me?

here I am
heart beating
up against
my knees

forehead resting
on the floor

blood gently
to my head,
a detoxing

deep breaths
more labored,
stretching on
the inhale,
relaxing on the ex

when else am
I ever this curled
up and folded
in on myself?

it grounds me
and reminds me
who I am, how
I am

and who I
worship and
honor, bent
in gratitude

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