Two unexpected things happened in my yoga practice yesterday.
The first unexpected thing happened toward the beginning of power flow yoga. I’d just started to sweat and was concentrating on everything the instructor was saying as though my life depended on it. There’s no stopping, just flowing; plank, high push up, chaturanga, up dog and finally, at the end of each sequence we rest in downward dog.
That’s where I am, sweating, panting, breathing in my downward facing dog. The instructor is talking about letting things go, telling us to breathe, telling us to check in with ourselves. She asks us not to judge ourselves. “Whatever it is,” she says, “wherever you are, that is enough. You are enough.” Gaze at your navel, she says. Then she comes over to me, presses her bare feet firmly onto the tops of my hands, presses her hands into my lower back and leans into me with all her body weight so that my heels touch the floor. She showed me how to ask my body to do this and the next time I did it on my own, well, that’s when it happened.
Something overcame me, I don’t know what or where it came from. One second I was fine and the next second I was crying. This has happened to me before, in other intense moments where the body is concerned, maybe a few times in my life. It’s not frequent, but when it happens, it’s a rush, a whoosh of something both less and more than just emotion. It just floods into and then out of me like some sort of deep, cosmic connection that I can’t quite explain. I feel so ridiculous, saying this even now, like most anyone who reads this will think I’m totally whacked out of my brain. Think what you want but, I’ve discovered something powerful through yoga. That a way actually exists to tap into the divine through the body, which seems to go against everything I’ve ever been taught about spirit.
So there I am, crying, breathing, eyes closed, and I just keep right on moving through the flow. The crying stops — it’s as if it never really came from me anyway, and what I’m left with is clarity.
What brings me back to yoga, I realized, is that it’s a form of receiving. I’ve always heard yogis use yoga as a way to prepare the body for meditation. A method for loosening up their entire body, stretching in preparation for long bouts of stillness. I understood that. I got it. Personally, I used to go to yoga because I felt it was beneficial to my health — like going out on a run or lifting weights at the gym. It was good for me and we should do things that are good for us. But that was the superficial reason I went. I knew there was more to it than that, I just never knew what exactly that was. As it turns out (and if you’re more yogically inclined or enlightened, you might know this already) practicing yoga is a way of positioning yourself physically so that you may receive spiritually. It’s more about just preparing the body for stillness. It is asking yourself what your limits are, holding a limit, breathing into it and sinking deeper beyond your own limitation.
Last week during a private lesson I tried to do a headstand. I’ve done them before but for some reason, I just couldn’t get it, not even with the instructor spotting me. Yesterday, at the end of the lesson, I achieved my headstand without help. I was elated and shocked at my body’s ability to balance itself, sustain itself in a pose with strength and stability.
So often the wild, monkey mind pings from worry to strife to struggle to worry. Can I…? Will this…? How could…? Rarely do we ever put ourselves in a position to just get some peace. That’s what yoga does. It tones the body and atones the spirit. It makes way for resilience and reminds us that we are stronger than we think. We are not our limitations. All we have to do to be reminded of this is put ourselves in a position to out do ourselves and we give ourselves the opportunity to experience the flow of our own power. Power flow.