on the mat is a state of mind
The constant, universal Breath. The place you can always come back to, where you have everything you need and you need nothing more than what you already have.
I have found myself expanding in many different ways recently – pushing out to see what’s there, to see how far I can go. And then I pull it back in, I retreat and try to take up as little space as possible in this world. I create a vacuum of catie-ness, and when I return to neutral can’t help but draw something new in, the way a contracted muscle expands and sucks in fresh blood to re-energize and renew it’s tissue.
This fall I was out there. In a new town, with new friends, a new business, a new house, a new climate. I started going to yoga at the perfect time. I needed to explore inward as much as I was forging my way outward into this new physical place. The revelations often blew my lid off. After about six weeks, I began to retreat; I wasn’t at class quite so often – I was caught up in my day-to-day, stressing about work and money, my dog and my family, and I began to close off that window into my heart. I lived on the surface, going through the motions, wondering why I was suddenly so unhappy and feeling so alone. There were people all around me, and yet I was missing someone.
I reached out to everyone that I could think of. My family. Friends. Patients. Trying to find the person that would make me happy again, that would make me feel whole. Everytime I reached, I came back empty handed and feeling more ungrounded than before. I would go to class once or twice a week and sit on my mat and worry, never fully engaged. When shit hit the fan, I went to class out of habit, and I realized that the person I had been missing, the person who had all my answers, was me. I had shut that part of myself away to deal with the ‘important’ stuff. No time to deal with ‘her,’ and I had been attempting to find that joy, that peace, that wisdom from others, pulling on their energy to supplement my own, when what I really needed was to generate my own love from within. I had been in a place of contraction, and with this revelation I began to return to neutral. As I created that space, I found myself opening to new relationships and opportunities. My friend Katherine kindly offered me a room in her house. My friend Christopher has shared his love of yoga and his light for life and reminded me that I have something special to share with the world.
Back to the Breath…
Breathing is a mini version of the expansion and contraction that we do in class, and, on a larger scale, in our lives. In and out, out and in. I’ve been studying yoga as a whole, the philosophy and history as well as the physical practice. Currently, I am reading about asteya, or non-stealing. It’s easy enough to realize when we are taking things that aren’t ours: stealing internet, money, etc. But often we steal in ways that aren’t quite so obvious – with expectations – physical, emotional and energetic, or by manipulating relationships to better support ourselves. I have patients that expect me to ‘heal’ them. I often call my mom and expect her to make me happy. By expecting others to do things for us, we use their energy and give away our power to take care of ourselves. Like an actual, blood-sucking vampire, we are at the mercy of our prey and caught in a vicious cycle of losing our self-sufficiency, over and over again. So how do we stop it?
The first step is identifying why we ‘steal.’ Usually, theft is the result of fear; that we won’t have enough or that we can’t possibly be enough. The second step is remembering that we have everything we need already within us. We have our breath. We have the ability to expand and experience the world, the ability to contract and experience the divine within ourselves, the ability to find middle ground and live between two worlds and enjoy the treasures of both. Each one of us is a complete individual system, self-sustaining. We can heal ourselves; we can love ourselves; we can support ourselves on every level, and we can bring others into our lives on neutral ground, each with our own gifts to share.
So I went to class this morning a little bleary, tired from a long run yesterday, but excited as always for an Yvonne class. As I’ve begun to draw from myself again, I am suddenly surrounded by friends. People who care about me and are interested in me and who I, in turn, also care about and am interested in. We all have our own shit going on, but we are able to be there for each other because we can be there for ourselves. We worked on bakasana this morning (more on my relationship with this pose here) – which I managed to hold, with decent form, for five whole breaths. I could have probably held it longer, but I got so excited that I was doing it that I fell out. Yvonne was coaching us from bakasana into tripod, and I don’t quite have the upper body strength for the transition, but I wanted to try to get into an inversion since I love the shift in perspective. I asked Yvonne how to do it without coming from Crow, and she just kind of smiled. I looked at my friend Anne, who was sitting next to me, and said that I was just going to do it. I put my head on the ground, Anne let me know when I had my arms in the right place, and I did it. Tripod. On my head. Anne says, ‘you’re doing it!’ and it made me so happy that no one did it for me, and I learned that sometimes I just need a little initiative (and a lot of core strength).
So Day 5 was a huge, huge win. A new pose, good friends and the death of my inner vampire.