I recently lost my job.
Completely out of the blue. No last paycheck. No severance. I’m a single mom with two teenage children. After about six hours of tears and a complete meltdown I thought to myself, “Well, you’ve got plenty of time for your yoga practice!”
In the past, yoga and meditation functioned as here and there activities. Sometimes super consistent and sometimes my cushion sat in the corner bonding with the dust-balls. Armed with a Yogaglo membership, there were zero excuses not to practice. I certainly didn’t have anything else to do.
Looking for different teachers on Yogaglo I found Tiffany Cruikshank’s 10 minute tutorial on Chaturanga Dandasana, Four-Limbed Staff Pose. After just a week of practicing with her my strength increased. Inspired, I did a little Internet investigating and found that Tiffany would be in Cleveland, Ohio (50 miles from my home) in just over a month.
I felt like a little kid on the night before my birthday. Without thinking I paid for the entire weekend of workshops. That’s when my stomach started churning and I realized that I would need to actually participate for all nine hours of the workshops. Nine hours in one weekend. Oh. No.
I’m usually the type of person who learns as she goes. You know, kind-of-sort-of following directions but mostly diving in and hoping for the best.
A friend reminded me that in order to bring something new into my life, I needed to do something I’d never done before.
Since my life had already been turned upside down, I figured what more could happen?
Brutal self-honesty, identifying habitual patterns, cultivating curiosity and trying something different became the tools for my alchemical process. My mat turned into a laboratory where I practiced with Tiffany every other day and experimented with other teachers on the off days. I backed off and backed up, followed every cue and engaged my breath in new, invigorating ways.
Tiffany’s anatomical focus inspired me to be interested in the tiniest details, to understand how the smallest adjustment could create vast amounts of space within my body. Getting curious about my reactions to challenging poses helped me nurture a soft heart instead of anxiety and negative thinking. I’d ask myself why I was groaning in Ardha Chandrasana, Half Moon Pose?
No one was forcing me to practice.
I started thinking about what it meant to show up, all by myself in my living room with no one to know if I chose to groan or smile. Then I considered integrity. Could the phrase “showing up” be used as a euphemism for integrity? And what could this exploration of integrity teach me about following through on my choices, both on and off the mat?
The weekend’s theme—Working with the Elements—appealed to my nature loving self. It felt like divine intervention that at this juncture in my life we would be incorporating the elements along with discussions on passion and purpose.
Even at the start the rhythm of the weekend was evident. Leisurely. Leisurely breath. Leisurely movement.
Webster’s dictionary defines leisure as the use of free time for enjoyment. Immediately my curiosity became interested in this notion of free time. Had I turned my yoga practice into work—something I should do rather than wanted to do? Again, didn’t I choose to practice?
How many other enjoyable juicy things had I turned into struggles?
For what other stuff in my life had I forgotten to express gratitude?
All those days of practicing with Tiffany and preparing for the workshops created tangible results making it easy to trust her, not to question or resist, just be completely in the moment. Throughout each session she embodied leisure.
Don’t get me wrong. Our classes were intense and sweaty. Yet through it all, she extended a quiet invitation into the deliciousness of the body. “You’re here, this is the only body you will ever have, might as well enjoy!”
I did not bargain for learning to trust myself in the process. The more I let go and followed the instruction, the easier it became to listen to my inner teacher. To be curious about my body’s inherent wisdom and how clearly it communicates when I provide the space.
We live in a culture with so many options. I think sometimes it’s easy to forget how often we exercise the power of choice.
Becoming mindful of the choices we make, whether in our yoga practice or life practice, provides us with an opportunity to be present and focused. An opportunity to show up and create space for decisions made with integrity rather than repeating old patterns and habits.
Melissa Lopez is a sexuality educator, bellydancer, and aspiring yoga instructor. Her genuine interest in people inspires her to use whatever topic about which she is teaching, speaking or writing as a vehicle to facilitate greater body-mind connection. Helping others get in touch with their inherent body wisdom fuels her passion for life. Get in touch on twitter @lopezmelibliss and at http://www.melissalopez.net/.
Editor: Carolyn Gilligan