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May 4, 2015

I Skipped Yoga Class & this is What Happened.

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It’s Thursday at 4 p.m., and I’m staring at my yoga clothes lying on the bed. I had planned all week to go to this 4:30 class. It was critical for me to practice today. This class was one of a few I could attend all week because of my grinding schedule.

But as I stand here assessing how I feel now, my eagerness to stick with the plan dwindles. I’m exhausted. My entire body is heavy and my mind is flat lining. Just the thought of undressing and dressing again feels like an overwhelming task.

And I’m hungry. I haven’t eaten in four hours because of nonstop obligations and I feel the blood sugar levels hit rock bottom in every cell. If I go to class, I won’t be able to eat for another two hours.

I stand slouched at the foot of my bed, arms hanging like sand bags, face long, sighing, “What should I do?” I reluctantly reach out a hand to pick up my yoga pants and my stomach grumbles in protest. I release my arm, and it swings loose and lifeless by my side.

I can go to this yoga class—force myself into these clothes, drive to the studio, roll the mat out, push my way through the poses and fight each step of the way. Or I can stay home and rest. This last thought was a surprise. One that came from a soft, gentle voice in my head, not the workhorse megaphone that usually forces me to power through. I stop to consider them both, and for the first time accept the stillness that my body and mind crave.

To feel good about this decision, I make a deal with myself—I’m not going to just zone out. If I’m not going to practice yoga on my mat, then I am going to practice it with every move I make at home, finding the beauty in the rest, being mindful with each movement, observing everything.

So I open my eyes and watch it all.

I begin by carefully moving my exhausted limbs out of my work clothes and noticing the coolness on my skin as my body heat releases from the fabric. Slowly opening the drawer that holds my pajamas, I unfold them and slide them on. I take care to feel the forgiving cotton of the loose pants and T-shirt as it caresses my skin.

I walk toward the bathroom, touching heel, then middle, then ball of my foot and toes to the floor with each step. I bring myself to the sink and watch my hands as I place them on the handles and turn the hot and cold water on. I watch the steady stream of water release from the metal faucet and notice the steam roll out of it as it becomes hotter.

I cup my hands underneath the spout, slowly bend my upper body over the sink, and splash the warm water on my face, feeling each drop move down my skin and slide off into the basin. I sip the warm, steamy air in through my nostrils, and exhale.

I turn off the water, take a clean towel from the shelf and hold it to my face, letting the soft thick fabric soak everything in and cushion my skin, holding it there and feeling my breath pass in and out of each fiber. I release the towel to the counter, turn toward the door, and take care to feel each step again as I make my way down the stairs and into the kitchen.

When I arrive, I stop to really see the warm sunlight pour in through the window and admire the rays, in awe that this light traveled millions of miles to reach me here. I am hungry but honor that I don’t have the stamina to cook a full meal, so I pour some water into the kettle, flip the switch on, and carefully choose the flavor of tea that will soothe most.

I take an apple from the bowl as the water warms, rinse it off, open my mouth and bite in, observing my teeth pierce the skin, the juices release from the flesh, and the sweet taste of the fruit enliven my taste buds. I count each chew, each crush of the apple between my molars and swallow.

The kettle roars with boiling water. I turn it off, place the tea bag into the mug and pour. I take time to watch the tea diffuse into the warm liquid, noticing the colors swirl away from the bag that once held it in, the water darkening with each minute it steeps.

I pour a bit of cool water into the cup to bring the temperature down and carefully bring the cup to my lips, allowing the warmth of the water and the spicy flavor of chai to pool in my mouth. The steam moves up the back of my throat into my nose and then I inhale before drawing it all down my esophagus. I stand there appreciating the warmth from the inside out.

After finishing the apple and some of my tea, I carefully walk toward the living room, lay my body down on the couch, open up the afghan, cover myself completely, and notice the heat build underneath. I allow my body to soften into the couch, feeling the cushions give under my weight, allowing my body and all of its tension to surrender and sink deeply. I close my eyes and exhale. Savasana.

This was the most mindful yoga I had ever practiced.

I honored my body. I was present with each movement. I noticed my breath. And I relished and appreciated all that I had. Each moment was meditative. I wanted for nothing and received everything. I allowed myself, the observer, to become the observed. I came into contact with my often-elusive, true self.

It was the act of slowing down that helped me get deeper into the practice. It was accepting where I was that allowed me to go further than I would have going to class. I will remember this and come back to it, just as I will continue to return to my mat again and again.

~

Author: Kristin Bundy

Editor: Alli Sarazen

Photo: arileu/Flickr

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Kristin Bundy