the llama blog
practicing yoga off the mat.
This month’s blog story is a hands-on. Set your device beside you, and come into Tree Pose. Take five even breaths and switch sides. Take inventory while you balance. What does your breath sound like? What is floating around in your mind? Go ahead, and try.
When our mind is roaming and indulging in imagination, we leave the present moment and can cause havoc to our state of being. If you felt wobbly and unbalanced in Tree, go back to what was on your mind? Were you thinking about the laundry that is waiting or what your colleague said at work?
Our body is always in the present moment; it’s our mind that floats between the past, present and past. When it leaves the present moment, we cannot hold the pose. Practicing yoga asanas (poses) forces us to stop and take notice.
Now, let’s try legs up against the wall pose or legs on the “coffee table” pose. Lie down on your back with your legs against the wall or supported on something like a coffee table or chair. Set an alarm on your device for five minutes. Pay attention to your mind and your breath. Notice how high your chest rises and how grounded your back feels when you exhale. When the bell rings, roll to one side and sit up.
While Legs Up Against the Wall pose isn’t as difficult as Tree Pose, it still challenges the mind and breath. We must learn to train our mind to listen as we move into a pose. It’s our own imagination mixed with emotions that cause us the most pain.
Our mind will wander. We will get distracted. So we begin again and again and again. Welcome peace and acceptance into the body, mind and breath. Welcome home.
Over 10 years ago, I started training for my first 5k. Two weeks into my running practice, I heard a loud pop in my knee – the same sound I heard when I tore my ACL back in high school. The doctor told me my ACL was loose, and I had torn some of my meniscus. I could have a second knee surgery at the ripe old age of 25, or I could find another method to heal.
That method was yoga, but it took several years before I fully accepted yoga as my healer. I continued to lift weights, run on the elliptical and push through cardio classes telling myself if I work harder my knee would get stronger. Little did I realize, I was actually disconnecting myself from my knee and the pain.
Much of my first yoga classes were in my living room in front of the television. I gradually attended public classes as my confidence grew. I enjoyed yoga for the physical practice, and never realized any healing was taking place.
During one class, I had an “aha” moment. I was practicing pigeon for the first time, and I whipped my left leg to the top of my mat forcing it further than it should go. I wanted to scream in pain, but held it in. It was a reminder that the area still needed some attention.
After that class, I decided I had to make some changes. I began listening to the way my body responded to whatever activity I was practicing. And it spoke back to me. High lunges were too challenging right now, but Warrior 2 felt great. I began to rebuild my knee and the way I treat my body. I listened. I paused. I waited for the response.
I am so grateful to have found yoga all those years ago. What may have started as a method to heal my knee has become my everyday method to dealing with life. Yoga can be so many different things to so many different people. It can be a physical healer, a great workout, a community, a spiritual practice and a listener.
What are you grateful for in your life this year?