Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Start from where you are

Yoga begins with listening.  When we listen, we are giving space to what is.
--Richard Freeman--
In Richard Freeman's book, The Mirror of Yoga, he talks about the necessity of starting from exactly where you are when beginning a yoga practice.  He says that, regardless of what reason brings us to yoga, we must take a moment and be truly honest with ourselves: "No matter what your motivation for beginning a practice...if you can simply see the reality of that motivation, then you have found the proper place for beginning your own practice."

You may come to your practice to improve your health, or you may try yoga because a friend invited you.  Maybe you just wonder what everyone's been talking about and you want to experience it for yourself.  You might be trying to lose weight or otherwise change your body.  Or maybe you're hoping to broaden your community.  It doesn't matter why you've come; it just matters that you take the time to recognize -- with honesty -- why you've come.

Freeman goes on to say, "The particulars of why we come to yoga may take on any number of forms, and all of them are honorable starting points for the practice because each doorway that reveals itself is a path into the deep matrix of what yoga truly is, and each entrance reveals that ultimately we have come in search of the mystical experience -- a timeless sense of complete freedom and happiness."

This week, as you greet your yoga mat, take a moment to ask yourself what brought you there.  Begin by listening.  Honor whatever your reason is, and ground yourself in the present moment.  Start from there.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Gratitude for Your Body

During the close of each yoga class I teach, I ask the students to take a moment to feel gratitude for their bodies, what their bodies do for them during their yoga practice and what their bodies do for them each day.  I do this at the end of my own practice, and I do my best to bring such gratitude to mind periodically throughout my day. This week I decided to share some background on this with the students in my classes.

Many years ago -- I think it was very early in the Iraq war -- I read an article about some veterans who had just returned home. One thing that struck me (and continues to knock me off balance on a regular basis) was how incredibly young these veterans were.  The men I was reading about in this particular article were around 20 years old.

One of them had returned home without either of his legs. When asked by the interviewer how he was handling his new life and dealing with such a tragedy, he responded that he had never taken his legs for granted. He had appreciated them constantly while he had them. When he ran, he marveled at how amazing his legs were. Knowing he hadn't taken his legs for granted was helping him deal with his loss. I don't remember where I read this or even what all the details were, but I clearly remember how wise this man was and how moved I was by what he said.

I carefully considered whether to share this story with my classes because the story is in so many ways a sad one, but I decided the message was too important (and, for me, life-changing) to keep to myself. My hope is that I'm able to share this story in such a way that listeners recognize it as a celebration of the body and an opportunity to practice gratitude.

So often we spend our time focused on what we don't like about our physical bodies. My hope is that the next time you are inclined to pick yourself apart and worry about your looks, your weight, or how you compare to others, you will instead take a moment to marvel at your body. Revel in your body. Wiggle your fingers and toes, lift your arms above your head, take a deep breath, blink your eyes. Everything can change in an instant. Please don't take what you have for granted.

Namaste :)