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February 3, 2014

Why I Practice: A Heady Person’s Ode to Yoga ~ Shannon Solieva

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Yoga found me stressed-out and drawn down by routine, uninspired and stagnant, going through the motions of day-to-day life.

She found me on the hamster wheel of compulsive worry and over-thinking, living in the fragile little glass dome of my mind, where intellect and rationality ruled over all else. She saw my reluctance to feel; my avoidance of messy, volatile emotions, as they rattled the cage my mind built so carefully and deliberately around my heart. She found a raging atheist, clinging to facts, and science, and the 3D world out of insecurity and fear that maybe, there’s something unintelligible by the mind—such anarchy was not welcome.

She found me hurting; both for myself and for innumerable others, the mind falling behind on rationalizing the pain away. She found me strong; or rather in pretense of it, as I thought strength came from the ability to keep a straight face, to maintain that sturdy cage around the heart no matter how hard it beat, how much it hurt, how badly it needed to be let out and taken care of.

She found me independent: a product of cowardice, not confidence; barely handling the weight already on my shoulders, sharing my life with others could lighten the load—or, could result in me carrying theirs, too.

That wasn’t a chance I was willing to take.

Yoga welcomed all my pieces, and moved them as one. She saw my pain, and cradled me through many a child’s pose, holding space for my tears. She helped me feel—really truly, feel—the texture of every breath, every effort of my muscles in chair pose, every escapist thought in warrior II, every bit of self-love and security in that fetal pose at the end of the class.

She got me into a headstand: turned my world upside down, to teach me that it’s all about perspective. She nurtured in me a center I can come back to, no matter how hard the pose, how painful my circumstances. She taught me that a handstand is not all that scary, if I let myself work with a partner.

She taught me to balance big postures on small ground: one arm in the air, another holding my foot, back bending into Lord Shiva’s pose with grace, ease, yet strength—it’s possible, she said, as long as you’re grounded in integrity. She taught me that strength is in the vulnerable, raw, brave authenticity that comes through when I am unapologetically me, even when I come in the shape of a sobbing pigeon.

She enticed me in the magic of synchronicity, as every class was somehow crafted just for me, carrying the exact missing puzzle piece of my life, as the universe whispers the wisdom of the day through the lips of the teacher.

Yoga taught me to open to grace, with the complete, cathartic surrender of a wheel. She helped me see the Divine that I am, breathing and moving in harmony with the universe: my hair mimicking the motion of a thousand trees in the wind, my eyes sparkling with the shimmer of stars—know your worth, she said; never settle for anything less than you deserve.

Being a heady person, I live in a world of ideas. I love that I can interact with thoughts and writings of people all over the world, across time and space, and converse with a mind born a thousand years ago—like we just met for coffee. I find it endlessly fascinating, that an idea can be passed back and forth, molded into different shapes, and woven into a myriad others. And as it stops to be savored by yet another recipient, it transforms and takes on the colors and shapes that this person exudes.

Every brush stroke is painted by a hand so exquisitely creviced by a human life rich with experience.

For us heady people, ‘changing our mind’ is easy: all we have to do is find a key that unlocks a different way of thinking. Someone can give us the ‘right’ idea, and suddenly, all the shapes and colors of the contents of our mind change, shift ground, some atrophy, others become more prominent—and that, is absolutely awe-inspiring.

But just as someone can give us the ‘right’ idea, they can just as easily give us a ‘wrong’ idea, and if taken without discernment, it can inspire a change of the same magnitude, but in the wrong direction.

All of a sudden, the colors of my world get murky, the shimmer of it no longer visible in the dark. The world of ideology is so vast and powerful, yet extremely fragile and volatile, that it demands an exhausting amount of presence and attention to keep it afloat and on the right course.

Living up in the clouds, we have no ground—and this is what I practice for. I practice to gain ground. I practice to get out of my mind, and into my body, so I know what a true feeling feels like: that of my foot on the ground, that of a bead of sweat running down my neck, that of my breath flowing in and out of my being.

I practice so that I have a frame of comparison, against which I measure true thoughts: do they feel as right and solid as my palms on the mat, as undeniable as my desire to get out of warrior II?

The practice reminds me of my center, my core, my grounding stone, and an authenticity so tangible that if I embody it often enough, I never have to doubt myself again.

So that no matter how well-presented, how craftily manipulated, how seamlessly a false thought is slipped to me (all too often by myself), it would be illuminated by my tangible knowledge of truth, and dismissed as unfitting. I have so much to say to the world, I just need to make sure that it’s true.

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Assistant Editor: Cami Krueger/Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: courtesy Shannon Solieva

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Shannon Solieva