Last week I went to yoga with the intention to breathe.
I mean obviously I would BREATHE, how else would I be alive? But I meant “breathe” as in to just concentrate on my breath. There are times when I go through a flow, just going through the motions without feeling how my body feels when I use my breath to get me through postures. It’s an awakening feeling to see how much deeper you’re able to get into certain poses if you breathe into them. So I was ready to breathe when I came to my mat – and as we got started, there was no music. The sound system wasn’t working, so rather than becoming flustered and trying to decide what to do so we had music available, my instructor went with it. We spent the next sixty moments, just breathing. It was quiet and odd at first, but as we got going the music and rhythm of my own breath opened my heart. She spoke of letting the silence take over, of being uncomfortable for a while and then to just go with it. How our minds are sometimes so loud, that we can’t even hear what is happening in our own hearts. My mind has never been so focused during a practice than when I had nothing but my breath to focus on. Silence and breath was what I most needed at that time – when I was able to clear my mind, and focus solely on myself. My movements. My breath.
I came out of class with “yoga brain” – my most favorite feeling of all. It’s that feeling of clarity – when you don’t have a thousand things running through your mind, all at the same time, going a million miles an hour. What you forgot to do at work. What you’re going to eat for dinner. Who you need to call. What book you need to pick up from the library. What you looked like going for a run. Who rolled their eyes at you after something you said. None of that was there. I had a smile on my face, a calmness in my mind, and an awareness that where I am, is exactly where I’m supposed to be.
Saturday morning brought forth a different kind of insight for me. While earlier in the week I had focused on my breath and silence, on Saturday my focus was to be done without sight. Our topic of community was “why you go to yoga.” Personally, I go for many reasons. I go for the workout, the comfort, the calm. I go to yoga knowing that when I come out of savasana and recite “Namaste” with the rest of my class, I know that that is probably the best I will feel all day. I’ll have a perma-smile, yoga brain, and an upbeat attitude that will last me for a long time. So after this discussion, we came back to our mats and were told to close our eyes. Our intention today was to feel. To feel what our body was telling us – without having our eyes open. And so I did. I spent the next sixty moments (mostly) flowing with my eyes shut. The balance was difficult at times, but it took my focus off of what other people were doing, how their posture looked compared to mine, and made me FEEL how my body was in each posture. I’d kept my eyes closed in classes before, but not for the entire class. It felt nice to feel what my body was doing, rather than checking in the mirror or my fellow yogis to SEE what they were doing. It felt great – and again, I came out with yoga brain. And again, I felt like I was where I was supposed to be with myself.
The idea of “black light yoga” was brought up to me a couple years ago during the roommate’s teacher training – how he would bring in black lights and highlighters and everyone would wear white, and we would flow. Though the idea never came to fruition with him, it has no sparked ideas throughout the community. Last night was my first experience of Glow with the Flow – a black light yoga class. We – along with 150 of our closest friends – met up at the Des Moines Social Club for the inaugural Glow with the Flow practice. We set our mats down and got in line to get painted. It was wonderful. And the group was so eclectic – there were faces I’d seen many times at PLY, many I’d seen around town, and so many others whom I’d never seen before. And this was the place of community. We started out sharing our good vibes with those around us – sharing hugs and introducing ourselves to our neighbors. Hugs from strangers are sometimes the best hug you’ll feel for months. (I, however, receive the best hugs on a daily basis. Because my roommate gives the best strong, heartfelt, loving hugs around. Maybe I’m biased… but maybe I’m not.) Nahko’s lyrics and Good Vibes brought us through these deliberate movements to open our hearts and our minds. More hugs from strangers, more flow, more smiles and good vibes. What a great way to close out the night.
“Whatever you are doing – wherever you are… whether it’s good or bad… you are right where you are supposed to be.”
I’ve had very emotional reactions to my practices lately – I don’t know if it’s because I am more aware of what my body is doing, where my breath is going, or if my focus has simply altered. I am no longer focusing or looking at what others are doing – I am more in charge of myself. What my body is doing – where my breath is going. It’s not selfish – it’s mindful. I am being mindful of myself rather than worrying about what everyone else is doing. What they do – doesn’t affect me. Their life isn’t going to make me a better person, so why spend time and energy on what others are doing? This time in my life should be focused on making ME – anything and everything that I can be. Not just this time of my life – every DAY of my life. Because this life is the only one I have, and I am the only one who can make it great.