I was really looking forward to going back to class again today. Hamstring feeling pretty OK after its recent debut back at my home studio. And heaven knows I felt in need of all that yoga could offer me after my day yesterday: travelling to a conference, all day standing up in suit and heels, talking to delegates. No part of this was what my mind and body would have chosen to do.
Yet I found actually I didn’t really want to go to class. I just wanted yoga. And perhaps I needed a home practice to process my experience in Friday’s class. I’d told my teacher then how surprised I was that I didn’t cry on my mat. From happiness at being back, from relief at being more physically whole and healed. In the event then I was just too concentrating, too in the moment. No space for such an emotional reaction. No obvious ‘mental fluctuations’ in my yoga that day!
So today of course was the reckoning.
I spent a happy half hour or so warming up hips and hamstrings. Sunlight and music flooding onto my mat. Super slow movements. Focused attention on all the intricate messages my muscles were giving me. Miniscule adjustments, compensations, shifts in weight and intensity. Each foot, each leg a microcosm of sensation. For the first time ever I think (how have I missed this?) really feeling the inter-relationship between breath and body, understanding what it means for breath to invite movement. It was beautiful to me. So much to marvel at. How can this mass of blood, bone, muscle, tendons and all the rest do so much? And so automatically that my conscious mind is usually oblivious to it? How can I feel such intensity today? Each movement, each inhale is almost overwhelming. It’s like stepping onto a blindingly bright busy street after being holed up in a dark corner of a library. A sensory overload.
I looked down at my hands on the mat. They are like my mum’s hands. For that reason they look so familiar to me. I know my mum’s hands really well. I’ve held them in mine, and been held by them, for decades. They are a physical manifestation of maternal care and love. But as my own hands, I felt I was seeing them for the first time. Have I never really looked at them before? They are nothing special, but to me today they were the most beautiful, precious thing.
So I cried.
First a few tears that I brushed away. Then a good gulping, gasping full-on breakdown, chest heaving and breath ragged, each inhalation feeling desperate. I feel broken open, stripped bare, vulnerable, and exposed. Scared by the fragility of this body of mine. Will it get stronger? Or weaker? How can I care for it better? It deserves more than I give it.
And yet even in the midst of this emotional blizzard I am steady somewhere very deep inside myself. My heart may feel exposed to all the emotional elements, but it is a strong heart. So let it feel all this, let it be opened up. I am reminded of those lines of Rumi: “Dance when you’re broken open, Dance when you’re perfectly free”. This wave of emotion, this vinyasa krama, this dance of life are an invitation to me if I can only flow with it.
And I ended my practice with perhaps the most honest asana of my life, maybe the only honest asana of my life. I’m on a block, my knees are bent almost up to my chest (my hamstring is quietly happy), my chest stays open, spine long and straight. I’m not going anywhere, there’s almost no fold at all. It looks awful I suppose, but it feels perfect. Exhaling brings a sense of release somewhere inside me. I don’t even know if it’s physical or emotional. It simply feels right. This is my paschimottanasana as I’ve never done it before. I bow down.
More Rumi to express this better than I can:
Be ground. Be crumbled, so wildflowers will come up
where you are.
You’ve been stony for too many years.
Try something different.