When advertising my classes, I stress developing flexibility, strength, and balance. Most people will read that and presume I’m referring to physical aspects focused upon in the classes, which is true.
However, FLEXIBILITY, BALANCE, and STRENGTH are qualities needing development in every mind, heart, and life.
When I canceled classes at the last minute in order to attend a weekend yoga workshop, my teacher emailed and praised my flexibility. It’s a beautiful aspect of a well-developed yoga practice, he said (or something to that effect).
During March, I’ve taken some time away from the computer. As the regular readers will have noticed, there were few posts – and I still need to answer some of the exquisite comments that have been made – I also spent little time posting updates on Twitter and FaceBook. It was enough for me to scan my emails and answer the most pressing. I didn’t read many blogs, nor did I spend much time in my beloved Comfort Cafe! My excuse is that I felt myself digging further into a cyber-rut and I needed “out.”
For me, March became a time to re-charge and do something DIFFERENT (doing something different is a hallmark of flexibility, right?)
I DID allow myself to collect some garden manure at Renee’s Poop Party, wallow in some genealogical research, take long walks, rake my gardens, read, and begin to create my poetry collection, BAREFOOT & UPSIDE DOWN. I visited my folks in North Carolina, spent an afternoon with my cousin, helped a fellow writer on a project, saw my old writing mentor, and chatted on SKYPE with my family, including my sis in Poland.
So there, I’m certifiably FLEXIBLE. And it’s got nothing whatsoever to do with how close my chin comes to my shin in forward-fold. Or does it?
FLEXIBILITY is about softening, releasing, exhaling.
In yoga practice, we scan for places in our body where we may be holding, grasping, clenching, knotted, or otherwise shortening our physical selves, our energetic selves.
In meditation, we observe our minds and hearts for these same rigid, knotty, and hard patterns.
These patterns have developed over the course of our lifetime in response to myriad events.
FLEXIBILITY is about re-wiring fixed patterns. As we grow older, we continue to develop more and deeper patterns. Whether we look at our daily breath, or where we hold our stress, or how we approach problematic relationships, we can probably find several long-standing and typical ways of responding. There is a yogic saying: YOU ARE ONLY AS YOUNG AS YOUR SPINE (is flexible).
Neuroscientists say that FLEXIBILITY is important for keeping our brains young. PBS had a great series on the AGING BRAIN. Check it out and then Learn More at the Brain Resource Center. There’s loads of fresh research on everything from aging to ADHD.
In yoga and meditation,as in every other area, it’s important to maintain a soft attitude toward our flexibility. Commanding ourselves to release: YOU WILL SOFTEN THOSE STEEL-TINGED SHOULDERS OR ELSE! is a lot like kicking the horse when you want it to trot. A gentle attitude works with horses as it does with our shoulders and our crankiness.
Fortunately, we have a great tool for helping us to release deeper: the breath. Without even using words, we can send the breath to those crying hamstrings in forward fold and, focusing on the exhalation, release the belly and feel the hams grow longer.
In meditation, we can return to watching the breath when we find ourselves caught up in repetitious thought patterns, thereby creating space between the nuggets of verbiage that repeat ad nauseum in our cerebrum.
As far as those pesky relationship issues, try a little softening and breathing and see if things don’t iron out- at least somewhat, if not altogether.
And regarding moods that can overtake our entire life while raging unchecked, try more sitting and breathing, more yoga stretching, with much more softening all around.
Don’t take it all so seriously; that’s a sure fire way to grow more rigid. Throw some light and laughter at your stiffness, your bleakness, your obsessions, your life. It’s spring, after all.