The room at the ASU Student Center is huge, and cold, and filled with young students. I am 50 and at my first yoga class. Its hard. I cant fold or balance. Even sitting with my legs crossed is hard to do for 5 minutes. I think, “How can I do any of this if I cant even sit?” I have been athletic all my life; Im an archaeologist familiar with the challenge of physical labor. The Yoga teacher says to be in the moment; I dont like this moment. He says to accept myself for who I am, and I think, “Even when I cant do any of these yoga poses?” That was my first class. I heard almost nothing but my own thoughts.
But I went back because I see and admire my friend Michelle for how she moves through the world. She draws her perspective from yoga bringing it to everything from archaeology to friendship. We go again to yoga together several times, mainly because I believe in her. I hear the teacher reminding me over and over again to be present, be in the moment. At the same time, I begin to learn about alignment of my body and my mind. These come to me together.
In a short time I learn to sit so that I am aligned and relaxed and to focus on the present as I do this. Body and mind in the present. My work involves lots of sitting (in meetings), so every day I can practice mind and body. Every time I think about my physical alignment and the physical benefits that brings when sitting a long time, I am aware of mental alignment with the present. I start to feel good about my physical self and my outlook. Life is good.
But I had not brought any awareness to some of the big issues — dealing with situations of anger or danger or disappointment. As I continue to go to yoga and try to bend, stretch, twist, and balance, I hear my teacher remind me not to judge the moment, that physical moment of pain or inadequacy, but to be aware of the feelings and accept them. He talks of fear and anticipation. These can govern your life — in a yoga pose, in a meeting, in a family, in anything. As I learn not to label, not to fear, and not to anticipate as I work on poses and flows, I am blending body and mind. I begin to bring this to my relationships, especially with my teenage son, about whom I have spent much time worrying. I learn to shift worry to a focus on the present what are the present issues. Can I effect these or am I simply dreading something that is uncertain? This is huge because it moves me from worry about uncertainty to awareness of present conditions that can be addressed in the present. It has changed how I approach everything in my life, bringing fullness and awareness.
Life is good.
Be in the moment. Im in a CT scanner, lying on my back. The room is cold, I am naked, theres an IV in my arm. The scanner bangs. I think, “Ill just go into corpse pose and focus inward until this is over,” but I cant. Theres a mechanical voice that gives me directions about breathing and moving that I must follow. “Be in the moment. I definitely do not want to be in this moment,” I think. Actually that thought makes me laugh. I begin to think about my physical alignment and that moves me to be in the present. Theres me with a machine, specially designed to look inside and tell us about a condition that could be serious. Im not in pain; Im not in danger because of this situation; Im actually benefiting from it. My mind relaxes with my body. Life is good.
Be in the moment. Im in labs, Im waiting for results, Im on the phone several times over the next month. Two days ago I learn that I have problems that require major surgery. Being in the present is very hard; accepting myself for who I am right now is even harder. Moving away from anticipation and fear to be in the present is the hardest. Nearly every moment, right now, I think about the mind-body connection. I recall how learning to sit was linked with learning to be present and that every time I think about physical alignment I am reminded of mental alignment. I will use this to face this “present” as I have learned from yoga.
Yoga has changed my life. The change felt hard at first, but now I can face what is really hard because of the change. Thank you my friend Michelle and my yoga teacher.
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