Friday, April 22, 2016

Four years ago I would not have thought yoga would lead me towards spiritual awakening

These are dancing grebes

What an open, honest expression of love that is, coming from an animal.  When these birds unite with their mate, they mimic one another, as they move, expressing themselves fully.  After a series of doing that, the birds then dance across the water, opening their chests, their hearts. Their necks elongate, beaks and heads pointing to the heavens. As though reaching all their energy outward.

I think of it like nature's yoga.

These birdies remind me of my current yoga practice.  I first started practicing hot yoga after my doctor recommended it to me to relieve my chronic back pain and learn to touch my toes (Not long ago I was soooo inflexible!)  There were two Corepower studios pretty close to my school, so I decided to give hot yoga a try with a couple willing friends.

At first, it was painful and miserable. I was sweating profusely in barely-breathable studios, forcing my body into various postures so that I could fit in with the rest of the class, rather than listening to my body's natural messages.  Sometimes I would get to the studio before a class and still decide not to go in.  My ego mind was totally in control, calling all the shots.  Over time, I realized that the work I was doing on my mat directly correlated with how I was approaching life off the mat.

At the end of my classes, I felt so damn blissed-out, like nothing could take my buzz away.  It was that juicy yoga enlightenment that was dripping into my subconscious and permeating into my day to day life, loooong after the yoga class ended.

About a month ago I was talking to my friend who said she'd been getting into a consistent yoga practice and she just loved how good she felt, like she could tackle anything life threw her way.  I was inspired by her drive and passion. I wanted that too, so why was I not continuing with my own practice? Money.  The reason why I wasn't practicing regularly was because I thought I couldn't afford a membership at my local studio that I love.  And then I realized, this is my life, my health and my happiness (and likewise other people benefit from my happiness). What I can't afford is to not live my life fully. That's way more expensive.

Only recently, after 4 years of on-again off-again practice, have I realized the purpose of yoga is to expand energy.  This has manifested itself differently throughout each phase of my practice. Originally, I used yoga to manage my physical pain and touch my toes. But more than that, yoga is teaching me to create space, no matter how many times I fall out of a pose or get a reality check in a beginner's class (Beginner classes are not just for newbies, they are so so key for my growth!)  I'm becoming stronger and more stable each day, regardless of whether I practice yoga or not.  And it's manifesting within me in physical, mental, and spiritual ways.

"I'm so tired. I have no energy. I just don't have the time to do it. When am I going to fit that into my day? I'll start tomorrow. I'll do it next week."

We say these things ALL.THE.TIME.

Even though I'm still making these same complaints, yoga practice has taught me how to create more time, space, and energy for myself. Through yoga, we fire energy out through our fingers, toes, chest, head and tailbone. My practice is always evolving, but currently it's all about learning to tap into these energy bodies and expanding in love, just like these beautiful dancing grebes.

Maybe yoga isn't your spiritual catalyst, and that's totally ok!  I want you to ask yourself:

What is it in your life that helps you create more time, more space, and more energy for you? Is it a walk in nature with your dog? Spending time with your family and friends? Meditatively preparing a meal for yourself in your kitchen? Getting crafty and artsy by yourself?

I still have days when I'm driving to the studio, creating excuses as to why I shouldn't go to class.  I will continue to fight the asanas, choosing whether or not I can breathe into the ridiculously challenging pose to see what comes up, or chill out in child's pose and learn gentleness with myself.  I'm constantly learning about myself, about life, about spirituality.

my favorite yoga pose, in my favorite place :)
Photo by National Geographic