October 2, 2013

Morning Practice: A Practice of Opening to Possibilities. ~ Kelly Kaiana

I have always been a morning yoga person.

Yes, I’m one of those exceptionally annoying people who roll out of bed pre-dawn with a smile already on my face. There is just something about that time of the day—when the rest of the world is still in peaceful slumber, when the hours stretched ahead hold infinite potential, when the mind is clear and not yet filled with ceaseless chatter.

My love of yoga coincided with falling in love for the first time. He was a yoga teacher, and no, we didn’t meet in a class and it wasn’t a case of student/teacher desire! But as our relationship blossomed, I did begin going to his classes. He was an ashtanga devotee, having practiced in Mysore and done an apprenticeship with a local ashtanga master. So, although I had been a morning bird my entire life, getting to his 6am classes in the middle of winter, when most of the class was practiced in darkness and lifted only by candlelight, was an entirely new experience.

It was in those quiet months of winter that I fell deeply in love with morning practice. There was something so special about emerging from that small Balinese shala after class when the day was just on the brink of beginning. I still remember coming out into the crisp cool light, my body feeling alive and vibrant, my mind feeling calm and clear, and from there, I stepped into the day ahead, feeling entirely capable of dealing with whatever came to rest in my path.

The love affair with the teacher ended, but the love affair with my morning practice continued.

Not long after my introduction to morning practice, I set off abroad with a one-way ticket and a backpack that clasped my yoga mat snuggly by its side. I branched out from my ashtanga classes as I gypsy-wandered about.

In Bali, I discovered a wealth of classes in the beautiful yogi haven of Ubud, waking at dawn to the sound of roosters and trekking through rice paddy fields to a shala that captivated my spirit whole. In Thailand, I ended up on the sandy shores of Ko Phag Gan where rising dawn yogis crossed paths with fading full-moon partygoers on the winding path of the coconut grove.

Beloved San Francisco seemed to hold a yoga studio on every corner and here I fell in love with hybrids such as Acro Yoga and Yoga Jams to live music. It was in San Francisco that I began to practice yoga in the hallway of our apartment building for there was little room in our rooftop warehouse in the Mission. In the depths of a Vancouver winter I found Moksha Yoga, a practice done in a heated room that saved my cold bones and frosty mind from despair.

In summertime, Vancouver was the city of outdoor yoga, with people everywhere in Lulu Lemon attire doing sun salutations in the park. In the deep jungle of Costa Rica I found yoga in the most remote places where studios were no more than hatched bamboo floors; the walls were tangled vines and the ceiling nothing more than blue sky.

Yet never, in any of these gorgeous locations, did my mat see the light of an afternoon. If I missed a morning practice, then my mat would stay obediently quiet and rolled up until the following dawn. The thought never crossed my mind to attempt an afternoon class, even if my schedule made far more sense to do so.

Ten years later,in a moment of breakdown, in a moment of feeling lost and bewildered, I looked at my mat that lay outstretched on my floor, like an old friend holding out a hand to hold. It was late afternoon, but I had not stepped onto my mat in weeks due to a crazy hectic schedule and mornings taken up with long drives and arduous work commitments.

And there, in the stillness of a spring afternoon, my head spinning and my chest tight with anxiety, I stepped onto my island refuge.

I moved through a practice with ease and joy, feeling the openness of my body after a full day’s movement, feeling the stillness of my mind after a day’s hectic thoughts. At the end of my practice, I lay in savasana with a smile stretched across my lips.  Why had I not tried this before? My stubbornness and absolute faith in routine had prevented me from years of afternoon bliss!

It was a wonderful lesson for me in so many ways. Most of all, it was an acute lesson in the way we hold onto beliefs for so long without ever questioning them. We hold back from doing things because of a story we have told ourselves that has become our utmost truth. We pass up opportunities to grow and challenge ourselves every day, because we become comfortable in certain ways of being and existing.

I haven’t entirely ditched my morning practice in preference for afternoons. Rather I have opened to the possibility that yoga can indeed fit into any time and place; it need not be placed into a box of restrictions nor set schedules.

So if the morning birds call me to practice or if the late afternoon sun falls across my mat and beckons me, I now remain open to the call.

And above all, I remind myself daily of the opportunity in life for infinite possibility.

We are our only restriction.

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Assistant Ed: Jamie Khoo/Ed: Sara Crolick

{Photo: via Roman Veselka on pinterest}

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