Friday, September 26, 2008

Ragged breath

All summer long I was dedicated to my yoga practice. Although the actual sessions I could go to waxed and waned, dependent on schedules and sitters, for the most part I got there at least three times a week, and mostly four.

My breath was even. My body was strong and flexible. I felt like, for the first time since I was young, I inhabited my body to the extreme.

When I trained to run a marathon, seven years ago, I was dedicated to physical fitness to an even greater extent. Running six days a week, mile after mile (after mile after mile), I experienced a glimpse of what intense physicality can do.

But when I started my yoga practice I was immersed in my body. And, it sounds like an oxymoron, but I was also immersed in my spirituality, my emotions, and how it all functions (or doesn't function) together.

Over the summer I was so in tune. It was incredible; I've never experienced this, at least, not since I was a child and it is innate to be one with your body.

Over the last month I've been immersed in work. My work comes sporadically, and I've been working up to the Big Deal next week. So this last weeks I've gone to yoga twice a week instead of my usual. I've missed it, on every level. The superficial, the break from the kids. The physical, the bending and stretching and strengthening.

But I had no idea how much I missed the meditative quality it brings to my life.

Ashtanga yoga is a form of yoga where breath is key. Without the breath, it is simply a form of gymnastics, of movement.

The breath, a deep swirling and audible breath, inhaling and exhaling the same duration, is the meditation. It heats the body, it focuses the mind.

When I first started yoga classes I went to the 6:30 a.m. session. There were only four or five of us, at most. The sounds of breaths, audible, strong, and smooth, resonated. I thought the instructor was playing some sort of CD. Later, much later, after I was able to cultivate my own breath, I realized. It was the breath of the practice; each person audible.

(*Now I wonder, when someone new joins in; are they made uncomfortable by this noise? Do they find it awkward? I hope they stay long enough to work past it; I can see how it would happen.)

All summer long my breath was strong, it was easy to slip into a deep subconsciousness and simply be.

But tonight my breath was ragged. I felt it stop and start, I was off. It was uneven. My movements were out of tune, often a beat ahead or behind.

Eventually I fell into the rhythm, and the movements became graceful, and my body found its way, my breath became smooth again. It took nearly the whole practice before I was graceful. I am so grateful; so grateful for this. I feel like I just hit a re-set button; all the stresses and worries and lists faded away for a few moments. I reconnected with myself.

There is nothing that brings this deep awareness for me; no text or thought or teaching. I think I'm on the edge of knowing; that this is a form of spirituality; that it can be that thing I've been looking for. But I still fear this knowing. It goes against what so many years of teaching taught; even though I disregard these teachings they are still in my cells.

Maybe yoga can wash them away.


Jen said...

I went to yoga all summer long. Not nearly as frequently as you but the changes it made in my body were incredible. Especially the flexibility. I haven't done yoga at all in weeks. I miss it. Doesn't feel quite the same doing it at home, without the sounds of the breath, without the wide open space, without being surrounded by others emerged in their practice.

spinregina said...

just curious; did you notice any sort of spiritual connection or awareness as well as the body one?

Jen said...

Absolutely. I had a new awareness of myself, spiritually and physically. A new awareness of breath, a new relationship with my soul. That sounds so cheesy but hopefully you get it. ;)

spinregina said...

no cheesy; I totally get it but like you, try to keep it to myself b/c people already think I'm loco...have you ever tried Yoga Mala?