I took my first ever hot yoga class the other day.
To be honest, I have not cared for yoga when I have tried it in the past. Ok, I’ve actually hated it. It was hard for me because I am not particularly twisty or bendy. Not to mention looking nothing at all like the tall, graceful women that yoga pants seem to have been invented for. Oh, and add in the fact that I could not walk for the next two days because I was so sore. All of these things combined kept me far away from a Down Dog for several years.
So, I was surprised when there was something that kept pulling me toward the studio. And these days I (mostly) listen to those gentle invitations from some wise place deep inside my being. And so it came to be that on a cold, rainy Sunday I found myself wedged into the corner of a steamy room on my rented yoga mat surrounded by about 25 other aspiring yogis.
The teacher said two things during the hour that I tucked away because they seemed so on point for where I am in my life. Granted, I was trying not to face plant while one arm wrapped itself around the other and my right leg was (attempting to) snake itself around my left… nonetheless, I think I got the gist enough share it with you.
1). Make a gesture toward the pose.
Of course, I could not do all the poses ( or any of them, actually) to their fullest. The teacher just gently reminded me that all I had to do was simply make a gesture toward the pose. I could extend my arm just a smidge more in the direction of the full posture. I could lean my head back or pull my ankles down to the ground a fraction longer as a way to honor that I was endeavoring to be more complete in my movement.
Such it is with everything in life We don’t have to know how to do something before we head in the direction of it. Honestly, how many times have you stopped yourself from even trying because you did not know what to do, or how to do it, or what it would look like? Gesturing toward the pose says none of that matters; we do what we can with what we have from where we are. And we trust that the end result will be there as long as we allow our energy and intention to flow near that which we desire.
2) What would feel good now?
Every few minutes, she would ask ” What would feel good to you now?” For me, maybe it was arching my back or breathing with more awareness. Sometimes, it was totally coming out of the pose and pausing before I went back into it. Other times, what felt good was to feel my muscles shake and tremble as they got used to a new way of engaging.
Regardless, this an amazing, powerful question. It gives us permission to actually check in with ourselves and take a break from our habitual ways of relating to ourselves, others and the world. It brings consciousness into the equation where so often we are numb and mechanical in our responses.
This inquiry also invites us to explore the relationships we have with ourselves and the moments that make up our lives. It invites us to be flexible and fluid and to change our minds anytime we want. What felt good to us 5 minutes ago may not feel good now. Or it may still. And in each moment that arises anew, we can shift, change, flex, flow, or not. What we actually do is less important than asking. The asking is what allows us to start creating true intimacy with ourselves. We get to know our inner being in a much deeper way because we don’t assume we know the answer. We allow our soul’s participation and input. We hear what our body has to say about it. We offer out heart a chance to speak. We start meeting ourselves with our own vastness and complexity.
And then, if we want, we can make a gesture toward the information we have received.
It’s doubtful that I will grace the cover of a yoga magazine anytime soon. But I will go back to that class as a way to know myself more completely. I am so worthy of my own attention and devotion, in whatever way that looks for me in that moment.
And so are you.