We store so much in our bodies on a daily basis: fear, anger, sadness, excitement, anxiety. Our muscles hold all of our emotions deep within, and over time we can feel the effects they have.
Yesterday evening, just as the sun was making it’s descent, I headed outside to practice yoga. The feel of the sun overhead and the earth below draws me deep within, and always helps to make me feel truly connected. As I was nearing the end, I heard Jacob snapping pictures below me. He has been enjoying using my camera, and seems to find a good and willing subject in his mama. When I came in he asked, “Why do you always hold your poses so long? You seem to stand there forever.” I hadn’t given it much thought before, but as the evening drew on the question played over and over in my head.
I explained that all that I was “doing” in the pose was letting go. For me, that is the essence of my yoga practice. In the slow, rhythmic movements, in the intentional connection between breath and action, I find the release, and with the release, the strength to go deeper.
When I wake every morning, I fold myself into a forward bend. Feet firmly planted, I drop my head and my arms and sink toward to floor. With each inhale I draw in, and with each exhale my body releases just a little bit more. The feeling is so powerful, as I open fully to what the day ahead will hold. There is no rush in that moment, there is only the sound of my breath. This might last for 30 seconds, or if I am lucky for a few minutes longer. It doesn’t take much more than that to feel the shift.
For me, these small moments in my day where my yoga practice comes off the mat and connects me to what I need to feel centered, that is why I practice. When people tell us to let go of our emotions, that is a lovely sentiment, but what does it mean? When we stand in that forward bend and let ourselves sink deeply into the feelings that come up, when we use the breath to let go of what is holding us back and sink into it just a bit more, that is where we learn what that statement actually means. The release of emotions take practice, letting go of what is holding us back and sinking into things that make us feel uncomfortable, that takes practice. That is yoga.
I never force yoga on my boys, I try and let them be the guides of their own practice, but I hope that after last night they understand a little bit more how it can help them as they face all of the challenges that their lives will give them. My faith guides me in so much of what I do, and my yoga practice enhances my faith by connecting me to the effects that all of my choices, all of my actions have on my physical self. I have to believe that if my children can feel that, even just a little bit, they will remember that in order for their lives to be lived as fully and as deeply as possible, they must first find the release.