That little spec of black you see is my mountain! That is not a mountain, it is a pebble silly, you say. But for me it is a mountain. Years of neglecting my body in my late twenties and early thirties has led to complete stiffness. Translating the story shared by my yoga teacher Lisa, if my cadaver is cut open, those hamstrings will not come apart even when lifted by a crane.
But just like anything else, getting back to health is a slow and arduous journey for me. A decade or so ago I lost 40 lbs and began making exercise a routine part of my life. Many adventures later, about two and half years ago, I decided that Yoga is the way to go for me. I joined my local Yoga studio and through the guidance of the wonderful teachers at Yogasoul and my friend Elizabeth (my first yoga teacher), I slowly came around to loving my practice within my own boundaries. Some days I can do a full half lift with spine so straight that you can balance a ball on my back and other days the back is rounder than a ball. Some mornings, in the power class, I feel my fellow yogis in the surrounding mat move to the rhythm of their breath while I am struggling to keep my breath still in a childs pose. Some days it is easy to do a double pigeon and other days both knees are a foot above the ground…..you get the drift…I will not even walk you through the challenges of the more advanced poses. At first I used to make myself go to the practice as a forceful “must do” but now the studio is my second home and I have my 7:30, 9:15, 10:45, evening and weekend friends and I look forward to seeing each and everyone of them. Their positive energy feeds me every single day and whether I can touch my toes or balance a crow is but a secondary benefit.
So…when the studio decided to host a 108 sun salutation practice for summer solstice, I was thrilled. I love any community project and think of it as a party and was game for it. But as the day neared, I started bringing my mountain in…practicing on the blacktop means those pesky pebbles..I don’t think I can do it. Maybe I will do 10 and rest. Maybe I will break after every 10 and take some photos (that is not an excuse in my book…seriously…all photography but in particular Yoga photography trumps everything including eating and sleeping). But show up I did. Within the first two sun salutations, those pesky pebbles started hitting the mat. They are my mountains…..I was tempted to stop. I got up, took a photo, missed one sun salutation and got back on my mat…I did this a few times (the type A, overachiever in me had to keep track of the number of sun salutations I was missing…eight in total). Somewhere in the middle, a few raindrops fell and again half of me was wanting to roll up the mat and the camera and hit the car and the other half wanted to keep climbing. In my rise, I looked up to the sky wanting to be guided by the gods of rain. By the time 84 were done, I was on a roll and much to the surprise of my fellow practitioners, starting counting out loud. I was nearing the peak of that mountain and was so elated that nothing could stop me….I embraced my type A personality and finished the last eight while the rest of the group were stretching ( I know I will have to deal with implications tomorrow…but that is another day…an international Yoga day, may be Patanjali will bless me and keep my hamstrings loose).
I was on cloud nine but the best was yet to come….we were led through a guided mediation of May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be at peace…May my loved ones be happy, well, safe and at peace. I felt the breath slowing and cooling down and a calm cool wind blew over us. But then, Linda asked us to think of someone who is putting a negative energy in us and meditate… May they be happy …..I felt a deeper inhale here and my exhale was a lot of hot air, May they be well….a slightly less struggled inhale and a slightly cooler exhale… May they be safe…even cooler exhale, May they be at peace….a calm inhale and a cool exhale. A cool breeze blew over us as we wished love and kindness to all souls on this earth.
I thought I was climbing my mountain of the physical challenge of 108 sun salutations but instead I was going over the hump of the physical practice to slide down the calmness of meditation. Here are some images of the practice.