Sunday, September 3, 2017

Beginning again and again

Yoga is repetitious, like exercises, or practicing a musical instrument, or learning a new language. Each engagement with the practice posits questions familiar and unknown. The body responds to repetition. It builds muscle, it builds strength, it gets sore, it inflames, it stretches. The mind responds to repetition too, creating patterns, offering resistance, placing goal posts, questioning, criticizing and comparing. When approaching the yoga mat, or turning attention to the breath, or trying to speak in a new language, the possibilities are endless for how this combination of body and mind will coalesce in the moment. Yoga as a practice offers truthful, skillful means to combine these possibilities.

Even as I gain knowledge, I forget something. Even as I gain physical competency, I find pieces of the posture missing, or parts of the body unwilling. This is where the practice of yoga asks to put yoga philosophy into action: to take a light grip on what must be and adopt an ever widening view of what is possible; allow a truthful vision of what is actually so and develop a warm hearted acceptance without judging that vision.

It is nine years since I certified as a Registered Yoga Teacher with the Yoga Alliance, after 8 years of classes and my own practice. I've racked up nearly 1,000 hours of teaching, and many different types of trainings pertaining to the body, the mind, the breath, conditions, and even trends in practice. Yet, each time I approach the mat, I am a simple practitioner, like my students, like immigrants learning English, like children starting the school year in a new class. I notice the jumble in my mind, and scan the open and closed spaces in my body. Like looking for familiar faces in a community meeting, I hope to find aspects of my self that I can rely upon as familiar, and yet, as I begin my centering breath and movement, in a most essential way I am meeting my self as for the first time. Who is this? What is this? How is this? Feeling this, being present.

I can only start from where I actually am, with honesty, with generosity of spirit, without judgment, without defined goal or limitation. When I have conversations in Spanish with my teacher in Oaxaca via Skype, the first series of "¡Hola! ¡Hola!" (hello, hello) in which we see and hear each other across so many miles, brings such joy to us. We begin each class with boundaryless smiles, with rising heart energy, and joy in the moment. Ready to communicate, to listen, to share who we are and exchange what we know and what we don't know. So it is also with my yoga practices, with my yoga teaching. I can accept my always aging and changing physical body, my always remembering and forgetting mind, my always opening and closing energy. Truth is not as complicated as the grasping hold on a fictional certainty or judgment we have told ourselves. Starting with truth in this moment opens possibilities, no matter what the truth in this moment may be.

I propose allowing energy to fill you as you breathe in, and to relax your body as you breathe out. Let go of the tight grip on what you expect, or fear, or want, or hate, or need, or have lost. Breathing in what is so, breathing out possibility. Whatever the reality is, you are here, now, breathing. Practicing this form of breathing gives you a beginning in this moment. Your breath and awareness combined in this way offers continuous support for being, allowing some freedom from the inner structures from which comes so much suffering. There is no exemption from this suffering. I recommend beginning in this yogic journey, again and again.

Sharing this inhale with all living beings. Honoring the possibilities for all living beings with this exhale. May all beings displaced from their familiar and beloved people and places take solace in the breath we all share.