Since late June I have begun practicing yoga. Practice is indeed a proper approach as I find that there are certain asanas (positions? poses? moves?) that my body cannot even remotely begin to attain. There are others that are quite easy to attain. There are some stretches that have responded well to practice. I no longer want to cry when it becomes clear that we will be doing half pigeon. I actually feel really good about it, and I love the way my hips feel after resting in it for a few minutes. It took some practice to move from this being a border-line painful experience to a deep, restful one. And that practice meant going only as far as I could without hurting myself, and coming back to that place over and over and gradually finding that the edge keeps moving. With each practice it seems I am able to relax into it a bit more deeply.
The practice leads to discovery. This morning it seems that I discovered that I could do things more effectively by focusing on keeping my spine and thus my entire torso elongated. Tell me to bend or move, and my middle wants to collapse. Not good. Can’t breathe very well when you let that happen. When I walked out of class my body wanted to be tall and straight… all those things about posture my mother tried to ingrain when I was growing up. And it felt really GOOD.
Many years ago, Fr. Bill chastised me for some of my motions in church… for swaying when I played the guitar. I was not happy with that — and in many ways I think he was out of line. But, one thing he said comes back time after time: all of your movement, be it standing, kneeling, genuflecting, talking, etc is a prayer. Your whole body is a prayer. It seemed that my prayer wasn’t appropriate in his eyes at that time. As that incident floats back into my consciousness, I find his fundamental premise to be very true. Prayer is not words (Prayers may be repeated words); Prayer is a full body experience. As I step into a yoga practice, it seems that I enter into prayer with my entire self: body and mind; heart and soul. Focus on now; focus on resting in God. At the end, I am definitely more at peace.
In the process I discovered some ways to use the proper muscles — or at least which ones to try to use. And that is a start.