I’ve been doing yoga in bits and pieces since early high school, and finally began a daily morning practice in late 2009. The joy I find in yoga might very well be the most convoluted, however, because if often does not come easily.
Far too often my morning practice of sun salutations (Surya Namaskara) and tree pose is done out of obligation and routine rather than joy and presence. I do my best to notice this whenever possible, and know that even being in the present moment for a single moment during my practice is a success, and presence builds on presence. But it’s hard. It’s hard to focus with the plans of the day running through my head, thoughts of coffee brewing in the kitchen (or, conversely, if it isn’t ready yet, when the teapot will begin whistling), and Su-Su the cat rubbing against my legs. But those moments when I let all of that go and just breathe and move, even a single breath with a single pose, those are pure joy.
Ending my mini-practice with a namaste to the day and a chakra check-in has also proven joyful in many instances, though on occasion it too is fraught with other buried emotions and distractions. Rather than necessarily feeling energy distinctly in each of the seven chakras (though this has happened), my check-in is a time to examine my emotional response to the different areas of my life represented by each chakra. Particular ones are balanced- my red root chakra has felt good for the past year or two, and my blue throat chakra (the location of communication) has historically felt fulfilled and balanced. Others are confusing- I have yet to feel as though I have a good sense of my yellow solar plexus chakra that represents power.
Joy in practice of something like yoga is just that: joy in the work of practicing. Yoga, as with any meditation or spiritual or even exercise practice does not have an end, rather it is an ongoing practice toward betterment and ease.
For months I had been musing over a desire to return to some kind of regular, instructor-led yoga practice in the interest of supplementing and refining my daily morning sun salutations. This past Friday I finally did, and I’m excited about making a regular thing of it.
At the suggestion of a friend (who also attended the Friday class) I visited the Om Yoga Collective. As you may have gathered by now, I’m somewhat of a sucker for any co-op/co-owned/shared space or endeavor, so the collective nature of this particular yoga studio was enormously appealing, on top of the great instructor. Nikki, a friend of my friend, only teaches a handful of classes, but if this Friday was any indication she does them well.
The pace and challenge level was lovely, for I am not one for holding poses for many minutes, nor do I enjoy rapid fire flow type yoga. After asking for permission to do physical adjustments during the class she stopped by each attendee from time to time to gently pull up hips in downward dog, straighten alignments in standing poses, or provide ankles to hold for this challenging yet surprisingly successful pose:
This is wheel pose, and coupled with several other back stretching and heart opening poses, it left me a bit sore yet satisfyingly worked by the end of the session.
Practice alone is a joy, one that ebbs and flows with mood and stamina and presence. The most important specific thing I can do to increase this joy is of course work toward being more present.
I have also considered extending my practice, however, likely to include another mini yoga session at another point in the day. Has anyone done an end of the work day practice? How about a just before lunch practice while at work?
Lastly, I can truly commit to attending group, instructor led yoga classes, at least once a week. Whether they are at the Om Yoga Collective or one of the many other studios in South Minneapolis, by practicing with others I will not only nourish my body but my community-minded spirit as well as I meet and learn and connect with others. Namaste, friends.
“The wave doesn’t have to seek out the water. Water is what the wave has to realize as her own foundation of being.”
~Thich Nhat Hahn