I practice yoga (that’s not me in the picture, by the way, I wouldn’t dream of letting anyone take my picture while I’m posing!) I remember telling someone that once and they responded, rather sniffily, ‘you mean a bit of stretching’. I felt quite aggrieved. Yes, it is a bit of stretching, but so much more too.
I go to a class once a week at the beautiful Jasmine Trust Yoga Centre. At this time of year, we practice in soft lights with no music and no mirrors to distract us. It is a time for us to internalise, to listen to our breath and try different breathing exercises along with the postures and poses.
Now many people might pooh pooh the breathing exercise stuff. I admit I was a bit sceptical at first and certainly, even now, I don’t necessarily find them all useful and sometimes find them a bit absurd (alternate nostril breathing is one I find hard to take seriously for instance), but the main point, it seems to me, is to drag your mind away from its noise of troubles: I’m cross (see previous post), what’s for tea, need to do the ironing, what’s the women next to me doing etc. instead you concentrate entirely on your breathing. Sometimes, its short broken breaths, others so deep that your entire body feels light and full of air. It’s calming and meditative.
We also use breathing to help with postures, and stretching – an out breath can give you a little bit more effort in a twisting posture for instance, and Carolyn’s chanting of ‘take a nice easy breath, breathing out as you turn…..’ maintains the atmosphere of calm even when you’re feeling decidedly unstable, or the position feels like its pulling you in two directions at once.
Yesterday, at class, we used straps to pull us in to shapes our bodies were trying quite hard to resist, well, at least mine was. Can’t say I enjoyed it much, I prefer the pure and powerful feeling of achieving (or trying to achieve) the poses without aids. Even just to simply stand firmly, straight and still, with two feet planted together in mountain pose for a few minutes feels surprisingly strong.
So ok, I’m getting on a bit, and not as flexible as I used to be, and am never going to be able to get my feet behind my head, or balance my crosslegged body on my hands. In fact, I dread to think what I look like sometimes, what with all the bridges, and bending and stuff, but each time I practice I get just a little bit stronger, bendier and calmer, which can’t be all bad!