Perhaps today, I will try a new way of moving, a new way of reacting.
As I come to my mat every day, I never know what to expect. I’ve learned not to expect anything. Every day is a new day. A new practice. The postures may look the same to a casual outside observer, but inside—in my body and in my mind—they feel so different. Each day brings a new practice.
I start by noticing the sound of my breath. My throat hums with the sound of the ocean. At first, my breath seems loud. I strive to fill the room with my breath—to make sure I can hear it, to keep my mind centered. As other yoga practitioners come in and start to add their breath to mine, my breath quiets a bit. Just loud enough so I can hear its waves—so my mind stays focused on the sound. I chant the Gayatri mantra silently in my head. We will chant the opening invocation together later on, but first I steady my thoughts with my own repetition of sound. I relax into the mantra. Accepting what will come today without judgment and what will be during the day.
As I start to practice the familiar poses, I am often surprised at what comes up. Sometimes I notice my habits. I have been doing this practice so many years—occasionally adding new postures on to the end, but it is the beginning that can be so interesting. I may find myself on autopilot and I must work to draw my attention back to my breath, back to what my muscles feel, back to the position of my limbs, back to my bandhas, back to the sensation of one part of my body pressing into another part. Rather than moving mechanically with my mind outside my body, I try to really notice how each pose feels. And I notice new sensations in old postures. I realize I have developed habits of movement. Perhaps today, I will try a new way of moving, a new way of reacting.
Sometimes my practice seems intimidating. How can I get through everything? I am so tired today. I was at work so late last night. I am so worried about what is coming today. As I breathe and move, I realize that what happened last night and what is coming today is not so important. If I keep moving and noticing each moment, it will all be fine. I can deal with whatever will happen. I will keep going in my day as I keep going in my practice. Just breathe and feel. Breathe and notice.
Sometimes poses that seem impossible become possible. Sometimes even easy. How did this happen? My limbs move effortlessly into position. What has changed? Am I stronger? More efficient? Did I use my breath or my bandhas in a way I couldn’t before? I try to notice, but I also just accept.
Other days, poses that were easy become hard. Again I start to wonder. Did I eat something that is making me feel heavy? Is my mind distracted? But I move on. On to the next pose. What just happened is OK. No need to worry. Tomorrow will bring another opportunity to try again.
Yesterday I was excited. I had happy thoughts in my head. My practice flowed easily. Postures that I fell out of earlier in the week were light and easy. Hmmm. Can I utilize this knowledge? Can I keep my mind even and content so that everything flows more easily? Can I let go of worries or unhappy thoughts as they come up?
Sometimes I gain energy from the other people in the room. The energy is palpable. I add my energy to the room and receive it back. When touch is involved, more energy is transferred. There is a pose called supta vajrasana in the second series of Ashtanga where someone sits on the yogi’s legs as the practitioner arches back. I can feel the energy of the person sitting on my legs transfer to my nervous system. The energy received is different each time. Am I different or is it the person assisting me?
I prepare for back bending. Can I do this again today? I go down and up. Walk my hands in towards my feet. Up and down. How long should I prepare before the teacher comes to aid me in drop backs? How much is enough? I again notice how my breath changes. The strength in my legs. The stretch in my hip flexors and shoulders. The movement of my ribs. The sensation in my back muscles and abdomen. Then I wait, arms folded across my chest. The teacher comes and places her hands on my pelvis to steady me as I go down and up. Down and up. I relax and surrender. She catches my wrist and places my hand on my shin. Other wrist, other shin. I breathe. Surrender. What will happen will happen. No need to worry or tighten. She moves my hand to the top of my tibia. I breathe. I surrender. Other hand, oanother tibia. Breathe. Five breaths. Slow and steady. And up. Down to the floor in a forward fold. I breathe and surrender. Everything is good.
Again the familiarity of the finishing poses. Shoulder stand, plow—I flow through the postures. As I come to the final rest, I bring my attention back to my breath. I have my breath as long as I am alive. I can keep coming back to the breath every minute, no matter what I am doing. And tomorrow will be a new day. A new practice. I can’t wait.