So yesterday, this happened...
I am hyperaware of my right leg, unsteady and fighting for balance as I grasp my left knee and twist to face the left wall. My whole body is tense, as to not create any additional movement that can potentially cause me to tumble.
Out of the corner of the room, I hear the instructor's sweet voice- Why do we practice yoga? Because it shows us that we can be in awkward or difficult positions, and if we simply return back to the breath and breathe through it, it'll all be ok.
This definitely feels awkward. And difficult. I realize that I am holding my breath.
Breathe, what? Hold for five more counts...are you kidding me?!?
I relax and start to breathe, and suddenly, it feels easier. This, my friends, is yoga. I am learning this. It is about gently quieting the mental chatter, returning to the breath, becoming aware of your body, then softening and lengthening and allowing grace to enter.
It is now two hours into our hike. The sun is peeking in between the trees and we are walking the same trails, but this time, in reverse. We are lost, meandering, finding a new trail, only to hike up one mile and see the lead hiker turn around and motion for us to turn back around. My right foot is throbbing and I tentatively place it over rocks and branches, shifting the pressure to my left foot. I ignore the pain and take another sip of water and wipe the sweat from my face.
I see and notice things along the trail- the purple wildflowers, the cushiony feel of pine needles underneath my feet, the curvature of the red Madrone branches- but I am not enjoying or cherishing them; I am using them as mental landmarks and trying to remember how far into the hike we are backtracking.
I recognize it again. The same clenching, the same tightness, the same constricting, the same insecurity. Except this time, I am off the yoga mat.
Please don't make us descend back into the overgrown single track trail with poison ivy and ferns and prickly brambles. My ankles are already scratched and raw and irritated from clearing the brush with each painful step.
To my dismay, I see the rest of the hikers in front of me make their way down that horrendous trail. It is my worst nightmare. I start down that dreaded part of the trail, and then I realized- this is yoga.
This is uncomfortable and difficult and my mind is panicking and I am forgetting to breathe. This is my practice- to allow, to breathe through it, to realize its impermanence, to be present with each step, to be aware of my thoughts but not become them. And so I pay attention to my inhales and my exhales, the placement of the feet, and the hiker in front of me. I refuse to allow negativity and fear behave like the overgrown poison ivy and irritating brush.
Yoga teaches us that we can choose how we react, that we can learn how to breathe through uncomfortable moments, that we can acknowledge that we have a choice whether we freak out or let the anxiety pass. That in each second, each minute, we have a choice.
To offer up.
To open up.
To let it go.
Three hours later as we arrived back safely to our cars, I realized that I just did some real yoga on the trails. I'm thankful for all of the teachers in my life. Yesterday, I added yoga to that list (and I hope you will, too).