Tenderfoot Yogi Chronicles – It Ain’t Easy Being Mindful

prayerI’ve been practicing yoga for the last six months and while I would like to say I’ve gotten better at it I really can’t. What I can say is that I am finally getting “it.” That is to say, that there is no room for struggling, competing, hurrying, or worrying in yoga.

The goal, the prize is serenity – to unify your body, mind and spirit – to transform.  It makes me think of the chubby caterpillar, Heinrich,  in the children’s movie “Bugs Life” who knows that someday he will be a “beautiful butterfly.” But, like Heinrich, there are layers of conditioned thought I must shed if I am to experience a new dimension of self.  In a nutshell, it’s all about letting go.

Applying that while on the mat is where the “practicing” comes in.  I am able to let go for a few moments here and there, concentrate on my breath, be in the moment.  But, I still catch my mind wandering off to grocery lists during “downward facing dog”, or wondering if my “camel” looks as graceful as the woman’s on my left. I have wished for a fresh pedicure more than once while gandering at my hooves during “dolphin” pose, but I am finding that letting go of the image I have of my feet and my body is a challenge that gets easier the longer I practice.  Who cares what my butt looks like in forward fold? Everyone is facing their own knees anyhow! And when I fall out of a pose, which happens nearly every class, it is not as defeating as it used to be – I just try, try again.

As a tenderfoot entering into some of the more complex movements yoga has to offer I often think of my 3-year-old son, Colin, when he was learning to walk. He was quite determined, no matter how many times he landed on his bum, and every fall elicited a gleeful giggle. He approached walking with good humor and curiousity and was always forgiving of his own mistakes. So, I too am trying to approach yoga with the fresh eyes and passion of a child. I am letting my yoga experience free me, from, well, me.  And I am finding many of life’s stale platitudes echoing anew in my ears, like: “Attitude is everything,” “pride goeth before a fall,” “practice makes perfect,” “wherever you go there you are.” And strangely, “don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.”

I say echo, because the lessons are learned over and over and over. Yoga for a novice can turn on a dime, from deep understanding to self-congratulation and right back to frustration. But, with gentle compassion, I nudge my little engine back on the track and think “I can.”

Why, just yesterday I managed to relax into a twist.  Accomplishing such contradictory movements is par for the mat – for instance,  staying grounded in your sitting bones  while lifting up toward the ceiling from the base of your skull actually is possible. Yoga is full of such opposing actions and when achieved – even for an “aha” moment it is a taste of bliss. So I press forward, while being patient – another contradiction conquered!

The awakening is slow, but it keeps me coming back to my mat.  I love the joy that comes after such demanding concentration, the layers of understanding that peel away with every session. I love the deep enigmatic metaphor that is yoga. I have come along enough with my practice to uncover the best kept secret of  yoga – that life is best lived slowly, mindfully, focused in the moment and unencumbered by the small stuff.  It will take many backbends, inversions and sun salutations for me to keep this lesson fresh in my mind, but a moment of unshakeable peace is worth the many moments of practice to get there.

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3 Comments

  1. February 27, 2009 at 2:27 am

    Dear Trudy–It will take me a while to delve into the depths of *your* blog, but I’m glad we discovered each other (Still wondering how you found me, just for research purposes). This post on Yoga is so true. I’ve been at the practice for 12 years now and intensively practicing over the last several years with a particular focus these last months. In addition to the calm and the flexibility, this surrender thing brings EVERYTHING to light–the good, the bad, the ugly, and the divine. It’s amazing, and both so easy and so hard.

    Connected with a group of parents (most of whom have kids on “the spectrum”) here in Northeastern PA. Curious to see what I can offer to parents and kids and people…and what I can receive from these amazing beings that call things as they are with no heed for what society thinks.

    Peace, Sarah
    (www.laughingtreespace.wordpress.com)

  2. trudyboom said,

    February 27, 2009 at 3:48 am

    Sarah,
    Thanks for visiting! I found you doing a search through the wordpress blogs and loved the tree photo on your blog (tree is my favorite pose -synchronicity?)
    I actually took my son Zachary to the yoga studio with me for the first time this week! They offer a class called “Sweet Beat and Happy Feet.” One of the yoga teachers combines, music, bellydancing, yoga and Simon Says all into one class and he had a blast.
    I don’t want to get too excited about it or I fear I’ll jinx it, but I feel like we’re onto something here. They also offer a family yoga night that we will try next week. I have been talking to some of the other parents from Zach’s class and am hoping to get some of them to try it as well.
    It’s always a great feeling to find something that draws our children out. We had some great success with horseback riding a few years ago, but it was a tad expensive so we only did it for one school year.
    I would love to hear more about your endeavors! Glad to have found you too!
    Namaste,
    TB

  3. February 27, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    Very very cool.

    Back in Santa Fe, I was teaching for a program called Yoga in the Schools (you can check out the link at http://www.santafecommunityyoga.org). It’s amazing what play, yoga, breathing, and time within a community can do.

    Really, it’s about play. I subbed a class for a friend in a studio, and the ritual they created to get each kid involved in the exact way that drew them out was fantastic. One boy lead brain-gym exercises for warm up, one was in charge of sounding the singing bowl. Yoga mats served as landing pads, yet there was a spaciousness and a playfullness that I only hope to inspire in Adults.

    Have fun. Look forward to hearing about the updates. 🙂

    S


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