Today was a good day. A beautiful day. For the first time in four weeks, I returned to my yoga mat.
Now, as you may know from my previous posts, I have not been altogether incommunicado with the practice of yoga during this time. I stood as a witness to the practice of yoga through the process of observation. Observation of others in their practice, and through the process of self-observation through my continued daily mindful meditation and pranayama practice.
I got to the studio extra early this morning – at 7 am – so I could practice mindful meditation in silence before taking my seat on my mat. I remember setting my intention for my practice: “Alex, what ever happens today, don’t give up, and smile.”
These actually aren’t my words. They are the words of Kat Boehm (pictured left) of Moving Mindfully, Living Fully, a gifted instructor (she just came back from a 90-day silent meditation retreat!) who is guiding me through a 5-week course in therapeutic yoga at Bliss YogaSpa. The timing could not actually have been better for our two worlds to meet. Therapeutic yoga is, in short, as it sounds. It is about yoga for those who have experienced physical injury or trauma in their journey – whether yoga-related or not. It is not about doing a downward dog pose in class. It is not even about trying to get there. It is about cultivating self-compassion and acceptance for the state of our body, mind, and spirit following a period of trauma, conflict, or injury.
One of the first things that Kat said which resonated with me was that our mantra for the day was to never give up. Kat explained to us that she loves teaching therapeutic yoga because she herself had suffered a significant injury in her journey many years ago. This injury has allowed her to reside very personally with the experience of those who are healing from injury and striving to make sense of their body and mind with grace, dignity, and self-compassion.
The other thing that resonated with me about Kat is that she made it very clear it was perfectly okay for us to be free with our emotions at anytime during practice. That might mean laughing, crying, or expressing frustration or all of it. But, this is all part of doing yoga. That is because the journey is the practice of yoga. I am looking forward to my next class with Kat to explore the dimensions of therapeutic yoga more deeply as I continue my journey to full healing and restoration.
I wanted to share something with you that I’ve been thinking about all day. As I closed my eyes on my yoga mat this morning, an image flashed before me. It is the picture you see below.
This is Sedona, Arizona, at sunrise. I visited Sedona at the beginning of January 2015, just a few months after I had started getting truly serious about my yoga and mindfulness practice. I have written about my Sedona experience in a related post called “Yoga and the Vortex” (click here to read it).
I wrote these words last January in my post about the photo you see above: “That image has stayed with me since I returned to Edmonton. Do I believe in the vortex? I’m not sure. But what I do believe is that my yoga practice has brought something very important to my daily life. It has brought me a sense of peace that I have not known in my life, and I’m grateful for that. I wish you peace and love. Namaste everyone.”
What I know now that I didn’t know then – is that as I stood atop Airport Road at the break of dawn, watching a lady practicing the sun salutation sequence as the sun rose over the crimson red rocks – my heart felt like a child in total wonder. All my senses were percolating. It’s as if I was being shown a glimpse of true bliss.
These many months later, I have more insight into the experience I had that beautiful morning in Sedona.
I believe I was experiencing what many have described as “beginner’s mind”. This, as has been explained to me by my teachers, is a child-like curiosity about ourselves and our natural surroundings. It is a complete immersion in the experience of non-judgment; a focus on inquiry and observation of all of the five senses.
The beginner’s mind, as I have been taught, is a state of being-in-mindfulness that we inevitably finds ourselves returning to as we grow into habit and allow fear to penetrate our thoughts.
This morning, I returned to a state of the beginner’s mind that re-fueled my love for the practice of yoga and mindfulness.
I didn’t give up. Not one bit. I could feel the fire of tapas burning within me. I could not do many of the balancing sequences because I am still not quite 100% weight bearing on my left foot, but that did not matter. The sweat poured out of me as though it had been awakened from a deep slumber. My body felt alive, alert, and strong. I felt as though I was forging a new pathway for my practice, ever mindful of my body’s limitations and where and when to modify my practice as I continue the path of healing. With the image of the Sedona dawn in my mind, I held true to my intention.
After class, when everyone else had left the room, I stayed in silence. I stayed just to feel the heat on my body a few minutes longer. And I remember thinking how grateful I was that I had once again found a profound sense of peace through the practice of yoga and mindfulness. I gave my instructor Lindsey a hug and said to her: “This feels like a homecoming, Linds.”
As my Yoga Teacher Training resumes next month, there can be no doubt that I will come to my mat with an even greater desire to unpack all of the teachings this practice of yoga and mindfulness offers each of us. I can’t wait to practice again with my YTT classmates. They have all been so supportive through this process.
In closing, I’d like to share with you a poem I wrote about my journey through recovery:
What is, is
What is, is
What is, is
Are those groundless feelings
Of anger, rage, disappointment
For what is, is
There can be no crystal ball
No magic wand
To command the event of this moment
After the Light
There is the Dark
One cannot exist without the other
So close your eyes
You are free
You are perfectly imperfect
As you are
And while change
Can be a scary thing
In this breath
We can return
To our inner essence
Our inner child
Ah, I see you are smiling
Back at me
For you must know
What I do
That in this moment
What is, is
Today, I fell in love with yoga again.
May we all remember to return to the inner child within us when we fall off the track, when the future seems hopeless, or the chaos of the world is enveloping us. May we invoke the beginner’s mind and challenge ourselves to reside in a state of non-judgment and self-observation. May we allow ourselves the freedom to explore new pathways and connections in our bodies and our minds, all in the knowledge that this is how it has always meant to be, and that is a wondrous thing.
I wish you love, happiness and hope, always.
ps. as I wrote this post, I was listening to the wondrous, blissful melody of “Carousel #1” by Frederico Albanese. You can listen to the song by clicking on the link below: