Finding calm and freedom within
I have had two ah-hah moments practicing yoga that I am inspired to share with you today. I grew up dancing, spending hours each week in the local ballet studio of my hometown, so it was not a great stretch for me to take an interest in yoga as an adult. I have dabbled with yoga on and off for almost 20 years, but it has become a more important outlet in the last few years, as I have sought new ways to release stress and calm myself down from life’s rigors. That interest led me to become certified as a yoga teacher earlier this year.
The first ah-hah moment was the experience of truly letting go of tension in my body. I had always enjoyed the final resting pose at the end of a yoga practice, feeling both calm and alive. This experience goes hand in hand with the satisfaction I get from the active poses, stretching out the tension in my muscles and focusing my mind on something other than my day to day worries. But one day in a yoga nidra class, a practice that cultivates deep relaxation, I remember a moment when the teacher encouraged us to continue to let go, little by little allowing more tension to be absorbed into the ground beneath us, letting gravity to help us feel completely supported by the earth. It occurred to me that this deliciously peaceful state of calm was accessible to me at any time. When my body was completely relaxed, it was almost impossible to simultaneously feel anxiety and worry. I realized that this is the feeling that we so often crave when we engage in less healthy behaviors, such as drinking alcohol, overeating or numbing ourselves through Netflix or social media. It was such a simple realization, yet so powerful to know that it would always be there for me.
The second experience occurred just recently. During COVID19, like many of us, I have spent most of my time at home. I have created spaces in my house that I had never needed before to work and exercise, and one of those spaces is in my bedroom by a picture window. I bought some plants to put in front of the window, and I keep my yoga mat unrolled there, ready for me to practice anytime. It’s a quiet place I often spend my first and last minutes of the day. More often lately, I am also drawn to land on it to have a calm moment between busy activity – zoom calls, emails, household tasks, and the endless cooking and cleaning up that has characterized COVID19, with all of our family members under one roof all day.
As I rested on my mat in child’s pose, I had a profound realization that in every moment we have a choice. It sounds obvious, but over my lifetime, it has not been uncommon for me to feel like commitments I willingly make become obligations, and those obligations can feel confining, constricting and limiting to my sense of freedom and to a sense of joy and lightness in my daily life. Ironically, by and large, I make the commitments because they are associated with goals that I have dreamed up on my own volition – they are indeed the very makings of life that I have wanted to create! The new understanding is that regardless of what has happened in the past, in every moment of every day I have a choice. Taking responsibility for the choice brings a sense of peace as I engage in activities. I have less resistance, more calm and more focus. Sometimes, using my choice means deferring or delaying something I said I would do, renegotiating the terms of my commitment. It might mean responsibly cancelling something altogether. Yes, for sure, there are the necessities of making a living, upholding my responsibilities as a parent, and honoring commitments that are non-negotiable. But how I fulfill those commitments is something that I can freely choose – every day, every moment, everywhere. As I continue to strengthen this practice for myself, I also wish you a sense of calm, peace and freedom in your daily life. Reach out if you’d like to discuss!