Yesterday marked 40 days of yoga for me. 20 minutes every day of downward dog, cat/cow, pigeon etc – it’s a wonder I didn’t have an allergy attack – including at least 5 minutes of savasana*/meditation. Most days were good, I looked forward to the practice, to getting on the mat and dropping into the yoga headspace. Some days, though, it was agony. I didn’t want to turn off the worries or frustrations or even to just stop what I was doing. I did not want to tune in to where I was, I wanted to stay kind of skimming along.
If I was doing just a personal challenge, I might have opened an e-book and done the poses while reading, but that’s not the yoga that Kara-Leah describes and it is not the yoga I signed up for. If I had read at the same time, I would have been just stretching, and that is not the same. It’s not even close.
Yoga requires a mental finger on the switch that lets your mind hop from thing to thing, the switch that puts your brain hamster on its wheel. You have to keep that switch held down because otherwise it flips up on its own and you find yourself jumping from idea to idea and worry to worry inside your head. When you have your finger on the switch, you notice when it has flicked up and you can flick it down again. It’s a practice, of course, so you’ll have to flip the switch down over and over until it starts holding down for longer times, but if you are just doing regular stretching instead of yoga, then it’s hard to notice that it is up at all.
For me, regular stretching and yoga feel different. I am impatient when I stretch – I just want to get it over with. Yoga gives me ease – I may wish I was done with the whole practice, but in each pose I don’t feel like I am checking it off a list. Instead, I am seeing what this pose offers me and deciding how long to hold it based on that, instead of based on boredom. It’s almost like yoga is something my brain does WITH my body, but stretching is something that my brain tells my body to do.
So, every day, for 20 minutes, my brain and my body got on the mat together, no matter how late it was, and I moved through the poses, and lay still through savasana – often counting my breaths in the effort to stay focused on my practice. And it was good. It was lovely. And it felt like a kindness to myself.
I wasn’t perfect, a couple of times I really had to force myself to get started and a few times I had to take a break in the middle to respond to the rest of my life buzzing around me. But it was an excellent way to spend the last 40 days. And I’ll be doing it again. Starting today.
*I’m not just being snooty, savasana sounds much better than ‘corpse pose’ hey?