I just read John G-W’s post about surrendering and stretching and it got me thinking about some of my own experiences with those same themes. I’ve recently mixed up my exercise routine to include more yoga and I love it. I love that it’s a more contemplative and peaceful form of exercise than some of the other things I do. I also love that it’s more holistic in that it focuses on the development of not just strength, but also balance and flexibility.
I think one of the gifts having our physical bodies is the ability to engage in ritual and to physically act out and experience what happens in our emotional and spiritual lives. The stretching, struggling to maintain balance, the holding of a difficult pose. Sometimes I tense up my whole body in order to hold a pose and I make it much more difficult than it needs to be. Then I’m patiently told to only work the muscles that need to work and let the others relax. My body seems to particularly enjoy tensing at the shoulders. I realize when working my abs that I tense up my neck and face and shoulders and thighs to protect those poor ab muscles from doing the work that I actually want them to do.
Sometimes I don’t fully lean into a pose. There is some stretching that’s going on, but not what it could be. I’m told to tweak my pose just a bit. Open up your hips. Draw your right or left hip forward. Engage your abs. Relax your shoulders. Lead with your heart. Breathe into it. Never stop breathing.
That’s probably another favorite of mine. Holding my breath until it’s over, instead of breathing into the difficult pose and making those tweaks, always conscious of the change that occurs, conscious of the additional stretching that’s able to happen, the challenge to my balance. I assess and breathe and balance. Then I move into the next pose and begin again.
During this type of exercise, it’s much easier to recognize and internalize what a beautiful gift my body is.