15 Oct 2014

Anatomy of a Practice

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My mat hits the ground with a familiar thu-thunk. The room is still warm from the last class. Every step of getting to this moment is choreographed. The thump of the lock as I enter. The way I take my shoes off and arrange my purse, taking my water bottle out of my bag. I enter the studio quietly, pausing to soak in the silence. Always the same.

This time is sacred. I’ve been practicing at exactly this time in exactly this spot every week for years. The hour before I have to open the studio for my 4:30 class. The space is usually quiet. It’s the middle of my day, and I’m transitioning from one role to the next. The beginning is always the same. Routine creates ritual.


1779323_10152290069192783_194542115_nWarm-up. I didn’t feel like practicing today. I’m tired. Not just sleepy, but bone-tired, heart-tired. I snake my spine back and forth, feeling my a slight tension in my spinal ligament, a grip between my shoulder blades. Another heartbreak last night, the end of another dream. The beginning was so lovely. I thought maybe I’d found The One…

Despite my mental resistance, my body is asking to move. I’m wearing sadness in my physical form like a cloak, and despite my Ego’s desire to cling to it, my wiser self is begging for release. I feel my fascia start to liquify, and I’m able to deepen into the movements. Navasana pulses, Cat-Cow, Down Dog. Shapes so familiar, they’re like family members. I settle into the rhythm. Familiarity calms my mind.


Sun Salutations. Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat. Tears creep up and recede. Up Dog, heart opens, chin quivers. Down Dog, shoulders draw protectively around the heart. Damn, I’m sad. I wonder if I should check my phone, maybe he’s texted. Maybe I should text him… No. Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat. Stay present, notice your hands and feet on the mat. Ground.


Standing Pose Flow. Lunge, Pyramid, Warrior 2, Triangle. Familiar, rhythmical, soothing. An expression of where I am today, an opportunity to give myself what I need. I feel strength returning to my legs. Standing a little taller now. It takes longer to warm up now than it did ten years ago, but that’s to be expected. When I do arrive, the stretch is deeper. I’m able to feel individual threads in my hamstrings that open or resist. Awareness cultivated over years and hundreds of hours of practice. Breathe in, breathe out.

In Half Moon, I crack again. I crumble to the floor for a moment, tears overtake my face, and I’m blinded. Shit, maybe it was the wrong decision. Maybe I should have tried to make it work… No, the timing wasn’t right. God, I’m sad… Down Dog. Re-ground. Hands and feet on the mat. Breathe in, breathe out. Start over.


Standing Splits. What’s that I always say in class? Keep the foundation strong. Trust your legs to support you. Out of that strength, surrender. Upper body soft. The balance between effort and ease. Dive. Know you are supported.


Bird of Paradise. Hamstrings have finally given way to the extraordinary openness they’re capable of. Leg in the air, foot above the head. Standing leg strong. Press down, lift up. I realize that somewhere along the way, I’ve shed a layer. Breathe in, breathe out.


Handstand. My daily exercise in patience. Has it been three years, maybe, that I’ve practiced handstand almost every day? Finally able to hold for a breath, maybe two. On occasion four or five. My wide open shoulder joints inevitably betray me, flipping me into a backbend. I watch the frustration rise and fall. It’s okay. Lay on the floor for a minute. Recover. Stand back up and try again.

My heart is tired. I’ve been at this game for so long. Putting myself out there, diving in, trusting. I knew there would be no guarantees when I walked away from something safe and secure. This last one felt so right. Timing. Timing is everything.

Hands down, kick up. Repeat. Trust. Know that you will fall at some point. Lay down for a minute. Recover. Then try again. Don’t forget to breathe.


Arm Balances. The practice is finally starting to take. I feel open and strong. Bending into Flying Splits and Eight-Angle Pose. I briefly consider posting a yoga selfie to Instagram. Nah. Today is too private. Today the practice is for me. Breathe in…. Breathe out…


Forearm Balance. My favorite. A pose that eluded me for so long, but now fits my body like a glove. A testament to10500275_10152355854228138_3320119106730117580_n practice. I glide effortlessly up, as I’ve done so many times before. One breath I’m on the ground, and the next I’m flying. Suspended between heaven and earth.

I look back at my upside-down reflection in the mirror. I’m sweaty and pink. My belly swells to its full Buddha-ness on the inhale, contracts on the exhale to show abs that will never form a six-pack but are strong nonetheless. Breathe in… breathe out… I feel like I could hang here all day, supported by my own strong shoulders, between which hangs my heart. Perhaps not as tired as I thought it was.

Rest in Child’s Pose. Forehead down, third eye supported by the earth. I’m stronger than I think I am. Sweat drips onto the mat. I’m consumed–spontaneously–by gratitude for those who got me to this place, for those who teach me increasingly deeper lessons about my ability to love. I say his name, and thank the Universe for setting him in my path.


Backbend. Full wheel. Heart open. No tears. Watching the sadness rise and fall with my breath. Breathe in… breathe out… It’s all okay…


Forward Folds. Melting into easy simplicity. My muscles have unknotted, and my body feels less encumbered, more like mine. I have dissolved into an easier state of being.

A profound sweetness overtakes me. The veil of sadness has lifted, and I am able to look back at the happy moments. The first date where we looked at each other with pleasant surprise, as if to say, where did you come from? The second date on the water, where we walked up to the edge of falling in love and wondered if it was too early. The way we laid in each other’s arms and made ourselves laugh almost till dawn. Waking up to love notes and coming home to flowers. Talks about a future that seemed beautiful and bright and full of wonder.

To my surprise, I find the corners of my mouth turned up. My face softens with memory.

Breathe in. Breathe out. My heart is tender, but no longer tired.


Savasana. Tears come again, but this time there’s no resistance. They roll off my face and hit my mat with with a delicate tick, tick. I’ve been here many times before. Not just this pose, but also this place of intense vulnerability. Raw and resting on my mat once again. Somewhere along the way, the sadness transformed from frantic and confusing to something I could wrap my mind and heart around. This too shall pass. This too shall be learned from. This too shall inspire growth.



Come up to sit. Groggy, damp with tears and sweat. Relieved. Arms reach up, hands come together at the heart. Ritual, routine. Namaste.

I say the prayer I’ve said a million times. Thank you, God, for this opportunity to relax and be thankful in my body. I pray for strength and energy and inspiration to teach the best class I can and to give my students what they need.

Today, I pause a moment and add a line to the familiar prayer. I pray for release for myself… and for him. I say his name once again and thank God for the opportunity to learn how to let more love in. I am thankful for him.


The doors are unlocked. I’ve long since blown my nose and prepared the room for class. Setting the stage for what I have to offer today. The first student arrives, all smiles. “How are you?” she asks.

I pause. I smile a little.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

“I’m okay,” I say.

And I am.

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