In a given day our minds race with all sorts of thoughts. Bills that are due, what will be for dinner, what to wear the next day. But is breathing ever a thought? Does it deserve a thought? It may sound like a question ridiculous to ask. Breathing is suppose to effortless, right? But what exactly is a breath suppose to be.
Breathe : to inhale and exhale freely; to pause and rest before continuing; to blow softly; to feel free from restraint.
For a few weeks I had been churning on this idea to post . The same night I was all set to post this was also a night I was eagerly chopping away and baking cookies. Rather than making cookies I ended up chopping my foot. Ok so that's a tad dramatic. My foot is still intact. Just to save any weak stomaches let's skip the details and say, the cut was enough for me to see my tendon. After looking down at my tendon first thought was, "Ok, now is a time to breathe." That and "I finally have a free night and all I want to do is curl up on my couch, eat my cookies and watch a movie!". The last thing I wanted to do was wait in urgent care. But this was no little cut my curious george band-aids could handle.
As a kid I was never athletic. I mean NEVER. Maybe I took gymnastics for a year or two. That didn't last too long before my fears sank in. Namely, the fear of doing anything athletic. Especially in public. Normally I just avoided sports, competition, and sometime even the outdoors. I know it sounds pretty "blah", right? I admit it, it was. Being my "blah"-self, I simply called it “unathletic” and avoided such events. I just hated looking stupid, falling, or worse; I loathed being that person on the team who would miss the ball and lose the game.
Yet through the years I have expanded my horizons a bit, trying some different activities: pilates, running, spinning. However most of these interests were for the sake of a better figure, not so much for the sake of experience. So yoga seemed a great fit. No comparing, no competing. It’s just you and your mat. And anyone that knows me, knows I like my space. Giving yoga a chance, I wasn’t expecting to gain anything beyond some flexibility. However learning Yoga has been and continues to be an experience. I’m not quite practicing yoga on the Himalayan mountains, but ... learning from Tara Stiles I’m discovering to fully benefit from yoga, you’ve got to risk a bit.
As a kid I hated risks. I never did cartwheels or handstands. They scared me to death. At first I couldn't understand how some stuff in Yoga could be “so much fun.” After watching Tara effortlessly lift into handstands, forearm stands and all the other craziness she can do, I was eager to conquer these fears. Now through countless attempts, falls and bruises - I finally get it. Sadly I’m just now experiencing some of the joys of being a kid. Being upside down is fun! It’s fun, when it’s effortless. You should try it - going upside down. You might fall. No, you probably will fall. Maybe you'll get a few nice shiners in the name of conquering your fears. But when you let it, it just happens. That’s the fun in it. We don’t have to try so hard.
Yoga is a practice you can’t force into happening. Sometimes you have to risk a fall here and there to discover new depths and heights. It’s forced me to see where else I could risk. Most of us could benefit from risking a bit more. Simple risks like cooking for others, even if you're not Martha Stewart. Or risking big, like in relationships or vocation. We aren’t created to force life into happening, but we are created to risk a bit.
Maybe you already have conquered handstands. Maybe you can’t and want to give it a try (check out Tara's "Turn it upside down" video). And maybe you could care less about handstands or yoga, for that matter. Either way risks can be fun. They even can make you feel younger. So try a going upside down. Risk a bit in life. It can be scary at first. But you just might explore some new heights, even if you do fall.
“What were you doing in there!? Yoga? You look like someone who does that.” I had just returned from a bathroom break during an exhausting 3 hour meeting. As I was finding my seat at the conference table of about dozen people I looked at her and laughed. “No!”, I said. Yoga?, I thought. Do I look like someone that does yoga??? Okay, so I was taking my time stretching in the bathroom. But after months committed to my spin class the last thing I wanted to be taken for was a “someone who does yoga.” From my understanding doing yoga just meant you leisurely perform girly stretches surrounded by incense and zen-like flowers.
By age 25 I had accepted spin classes and dancing to Tracy Anderson dvd’s for my life’s fitness regimen. Every morning I’d wake up before the crack of dawn to plunge through an hour of jumping, spinning and some serious sweating. Really, she thinks I do yoga. Ironically I had recently noticed how tight my body was. Not like an “ooo I look good”-tight, more like “I can’t move my legs!” kind of tight. It was beginning to feel ridiculous - the constant jumping, spinning, sweating. Daily I was building tension upon tension. The kind that feel likes it’s going to pop at any moment. But rarely would I let a pulled hamstring get in the way of my workouts. I just kept spinning and jumping, spinning and jumping. Then one weekend I came across some free yoga online; Tara Stiles You Tube videos ( www.tarastiles.com). So I figured I’d give it a whirl. I wasn’t expecting to be standing on my head or doing splits but knew I could use a stretch. Little did I know yoga is oh, so much more than stretching.
Yoga is indescribable. At first it felt like an ego buster. You see these crazy movements and realize you have all those same muscles and ligaments. Shouldn't we all be able to do these insane poses too? But it’s more than just flexibility. Yoga redefines conditioning the body. Through long deep breaths, fluid and slow-paced movements (well slower than spinning) my body was thanking me... and sweating. Practicing countless downward dogs, splits, tree poses and even falling on my head a few times, ok several times, more has changed than just my view of fitness. Fitness has never felt so intentional, relaxing, and yet so challenging. In a world that is greatly concerned with living holistic lives, it’s rare to see physical fitness approached with the same holistic intentions. We move through our days full of anxiety, worries, and expectations that just add more tension. Yoga is like the perfect drug. Consider it a holistic drug. One I’d like to subscribe to each and everyone of you.
Now every day I do yoga. And every day it looks different. Maybe it's to find flexibility, strength or simply rid myself from anxiety and stress. Yoga frees me up to meet my body where it’s at. Believe it or not, I can finally stand on my head too. And I’m learning to do some other crazy stuff. So now, I gladly except that I look like a yoga person. Little did I know, my co-worker had given me a compliment.