Thursday, September 3, 2009

Body Work(ed)

Tonight, W and I went on a walk around the lake. It was so revealing. We've been on countless walks before, each a different experience. This one was particularly special, I think, because I was very aware of my thoughts and my body.

My day began this morning with a mixed-beginner yoga class at Prana Yoga, a beautiful yoga studio in a neighboring town. It was my first time doing yoga in quite some time, while also being my first time at Prana. I arrived at the studio to find owner Nancy Moran Mermelstein sitting at the door. She's striking, with bright blue eyes and dark curly hair, and though her beauty could be intimidating, she was so warm and welcoming that I immediately felt at ease.
I set up my mat, block, strap, and blanket, and waited. Looking around at everyone, I was nervous but hopeful. Nancy had introduced me to my teacher, Christy, and we spoke briefly before class began. I noticed that Christy spoke in a soothing way, and she seemed very calm. I knew I was in good hands. 

The class brought up a lot of feelings that I hadn't felt in awhile. Sitting in Sukhasana (think criss-cross applesauce) with my eyes closed, focusing on my breath, I felt fear. We had the choice of opening our eyes or keeping them closed, but the whole class had closed eyes and I really wanted to stretch myself emotionally, move into the unknown. I tried to sit with the fear, find it's root, but more than once I opened my eyes. As the class progressed, I found myself really feeling my quadriceps during Warrior 2, remembering the physical work that happens in yoga with surprise. During Downward Facing Dog, I noticed how intense the stretch was in my heels, and breathed through my discomfort. Just a little deeper, I thought to myself. In Sarvangasana (shoulder stand pose), I struggled to get in the position, and was really having a difficult time staying with it. Christy mentioned to the class that this position is very good for the thyroid, something I have had issues with, so I was motivated to work harder to maintain the pose. 

Emotionally, I felt things come up in certain asanas (poses); I noticed them then let them go. The bodywork redirected my focus to my muscles, my breath. My mind let go of the fear and allowed me to enjoy the bodywork and the changes that occurred -- both mentally and physically -- while holding a pose. The more we did, the better I felt. 

Toward the end of class, while in Savasana (Corpse Pose) I noticed that not only was I completely relaxed and in touch with my body, but that I didn't want it to end. I'd gone deep inside myself and grown a tiny bit stronger.

The class ended with hands in Salutation Seal (anjali mudra, hands in prayer) and a collective (optional) exhalation of "Om." Everyone sat for a minute, and then slowly got up. I imagine that, like me, they wanted to indulge in the good feeling of the class for a while longer.
I carried this feeling with me all day. 

So tonight, while walking with my love (and feeling renewed), I took note of many things. The way that my hamstrings engaged to help me walk uphill, the warmth of the air against my skin. I noticed that going downhill really required me to engage both my abs and quads to prevent me from tipping forward. And breathing only through my nose, when usually I'd exhale through my mouth, I noticed how consistent my breathing was, and how I was able to control and pace my breath.

As we walked around the lake, W pointed things out that I never would have noticed. Wild turkeys in someone's yard, a deer resting (seated) on another's. Later, we saw three buzzards looking into a pile of boulders and smelled the remains of something once living. It was so nice being in nature, working our bodies, and breathing.

We allowed ourselves to search for a trail, coming up against more than one dead end in the process. Though we didn't ever find the trail, the dead end concept was changed for me. I used to think of it as a place where things simply stop. But tonight, as we peeked into the woods and made wrong turns, I learned to appreciate change and the beauty of the unknown.

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