This has been my routine for days now:
Walk home from work. It’s hot outside so I’m already sweaty and warmed up. Change into a comfy tank and shorts, turn on a fan in the spare room and roll out my yoga mat.
Breathe. Find Mountain Pose.
I feel the three points in my feet and inhale through my core. I roll my shoulders up to my ears and then down my back.
Breathe. For the first time all day, I can really breathe.
The power of yoga is in the breath.
I remember participants in a class I took last year who didn’t know how to breathe deeply. When the instructor told us to count – three counts in, six counts out – they were amazed! One woman said she had never breathed deeply like that.
Connecting with your breath is like connecting with your inner being. I feel more alive and more aware of myself when I am aware of my breath.
Take a moment to breathe deeply, even right now.
I reach up to the ceiling. It’s like I’m growing out of myself. I open my chest and shoulders into a small back bend. I feel free.
Now I fold forward, stretching all down the back of my legs. I shake my head slightly to loosen up any tension in my neck. Always too much tension in my neck. I plant my hands and step back into Downward Facing Dog.
Pressing into my shoulders, I can almost physically feel a release of toxins. I carry my tension right at the base of neck between my shoulder blades. Releasing that area sends a small tingle down my spine.
Finally, I lift back up to Plank, draw one knee in and lay it in front of me: right knee by my right wrist, left foot by my left wrist. Pigeon. My favorite pose, probably ever. I settle here, fully content to stay and rest awhile. This hip–opener is an important piece in releasing any toxins and tension from my day.
The power of yoga is in release.
When you are physically active and feel muscle soreness, lactic acid builds up on your muscles. Stretching out, working through your joints, foam rolling and other types of massage help break down lactic acid build up. Other toxins that build up in our bodies are simply natural cellular waste, toxins from food and, of course, stress. Stress is not just emotional, but a physical reaction in our bodies. It leaves us vulnerable to illness and can kill good bacteria.
“As we move and sweat through the yoga practice toxins are released and flushed out. This occurs through the skin, breath, and the lymphatic system. Once released, we are free to allow new nutrients in to nourish us,” via Yoga Everywhere.
A good yoga flow opens pathways, removes blocks and unknots the body. It helps blood circulation and digestion. It releases the negative and breaths in new positives.
I’m in Triangle Pose, one hand on the ground, my back twisted, the other hand to the ceiling. This pose feels amazing… but doesn’t feel like it looks amazing. In triangle, I’m more aware of extra folds around my waist and jiggle in my raised arm.
In fact, I would say that about most poses. I press into the twist more and ponder this. Yoga helps me connect with myself. The practice unites my mind, spirit and body. With that awareness comes…. awareness. I am confronted with areas of my physical body that I don’t love and in that moment of confrontation realize an emotional block.
This is about acceptance, I tell myself. I am beautiful. I am strong. I am powerful. And I am letting go of expectations and standards that hold me back.
The power of yoga is in letting go.
I don’t know how it’s possible, but yoga is possibly the only activity that makes me feel frumpy and lithe simultaneously. In one posture I feel dignified… majestic even… the next I feel graceless. In one I am in perfect control, the next I’m falling over. What I’ve learned in the process: I am what I am in the moment I am in.
I love what Preston wrote earlier this week: “In yoga there is no room for pretense. If you try and pretend you are more than you are, you will hurt yourself. In order to do a practice well, you have to accept your body. All of it. All of the hanging, all of the sagging, all of those extra few pounds here and there.”
His post perfectly fits what I had already begun writing for this post – in fact, he expressed it better than me, so I don’t feel the need to elaborate further.
“You have to let it go. You have to let it go loose and be honest and be.”
It’s near the end of my yoga flow. I’ve been through a Warrior Series and worked my core. I bend into Wheel Pose and straighten my legs into Upward Facing Two–foot Staff Pose. I’m still up on my hands, but working toward dropping onto my elbows.
When I come down, I’m ready to balance.
Deep breath. One last balance. I move my mat to the wall, set my head and shoulders and kick up into a Headstand. From here I focus on pulling my feet off the wall to balance. Two seconds, five seconds, nine… I fall. Quick breath of frustration. So close to 10 seconds! Another breath and back to the wall.
The power of yoga is in balance.
“Balance means more than being steady while standing on one leg. It is also our approach to life and the choices we make each day. The balancing postures in yoga have a really positive effect on both our internal and external worlds, which can help us balance on one hand (!) and feel calm and centered while we do it,” via DoYouYoga.com.
If you’ve read this blog for a hot second, you know I talk a lot of finding balance in life. Working out, eating well… and enjoying treats. Sticking to a plan… and taking an extra day off if needed. I don’t stress about things like that. Life is too short. Enjoy the journey.
For me, performing a balance posture provides such a brilliant sense of accomplishment. I credit my dance background for being comfortable with single leg balances, but arm balances… those are new. They challenge me in a new way. I have never been motivated by competition; in fact, I don’t enjoy competition much at all. But a personal challenge… that motivates me. Improving my balances: it’s happening. Becoming a stronger runner: always in progress. Enhancing other areas of my life: moving forward while staying balanced.