I believe in the honesty of my body. It has revealed the essential truth of my life to me. This vital communication began two years into my first “real” job. I was a struggling teacher, stressed and anxious. A fear of getting cancer like my mom and aunt opened me to changing my lifestyle. I happened upon a routine of “relaxing” yoga while surfing the channels. I joined in and was hooked instantly. I hadn’t felt that content in years. The next evening I tuned in eagerly for more relaxation, but found something unexpected. It was a routine of “strengthening” standing poses. The teacher began her instruction with Tadasana, or mountain pose, a very basic standing position.
“Spread your toes and stand evenly on both of your feet. Feel them grounded and connected to the earth. Feel the strength of that connection run up your legs, like the leg muscles are lifted and hugging the bones.” Immediately my mind grumbled sarcastically, “What is this? We know how to stand. We’ve been doing it for twenty some odd years now…” I paused. I remember how I had felt after last night’s session. That peaceful feeling was too powerful for my mind to override with its snotty little comment. I forged ahead. I had to focus and attend to the task of planting my feet. The inner edge of my foot didn’t want to ground. My toes didn’t want to spread. I played with it for some time and, then, for just a moment, my foot pressed to the floor fully and my posture changed instantly.
I struggled throughout each pose that night. My quadriceps quivered and shook. My ego assaulted me with a barrage of criticism. This is stupid. Why aren’t we doing some serious exercise? I realized that my ego was trying to protect me from a belief that I had always carried…that I was weak. I shushed my ego for the first time in my life. The instructor and the yoga poses taught me to listen to my body without allowing my mind to translate and interpret with sarcasm.
My relaxation that night was profound. I had worked so hard that I sunk deeply and gratefully into myself for a few sweet moments. The next day, I rushed into my classroom, trying to deny the dread of another day with children whose problems were larger than I could ever hope to fix. I felt small and scared. I wanted to escape.
A classroom aide asked me what I did last night. “Yoga,” I told her. “I tried yoga.” As I said it, my body took command of my senses, pressing my feet against the ground fully, engaging the strength of my legs. Instinctively I drew that strength up and embraced it in the core of my being. Holding it there for a moment, my spine lengthened with ease and grace, my heart relaxed, and I smiled.
My body had spoken.
I was not weak and I was not alone.
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