I don’t always think about why I practice yoga.
I get on my mat, I breathe, I bend, I twist, I lie, I awaken, I rise. I feel more alive afterward. More present. More me.
But it doesn’t always allow me to flow through life so easily. At first, sometimes, it hurts—like pieces of me I’ve never seen can finally breathe and be.
But the awakening can sting—like growing pains, I suppose. And it’s not just from the stretch I get when I bow my nose to my knees.
It’s the opening, the unlearning, the undoing, the breaking that allows my heart to feel free…eventually.
Every time I practice yoga, I feel this. Every time I move intentionally, I feel like I can finally see (so much more than just me). But I don’t always think about this…the reason I practice yoga. Most of the time, I just feel it. I feel the melting, the cracking, the expanding, the becoming.
But I never thought about the words behind the feeling until I read this potent poem by my beautiful friend, Rivka Peiffer:
“Contrary to that familiar saying, I do not ‘bend so I don’t break’ I bend with the hope that I DO break.
break off the fear that lives on the edges of me, like crunching the rime wedged in my cogs, causing a pregnant pause in the flow that was once full-fledged
breaking through my own fragile mind’s limitations by no mistake, like shedding, tree bark flaking
I bend to release internal frustrations
I move with the beat of my heart, following, swallowing its undulations, as if the sheer movement of my spine is casting powerful incantations
I break myself with care,
to set my soul free
I contort, test, crack my chest wide open so that I might more clearly see
the ‘broken’ bits of me.
I look down in awe and dare to see,
all of me shattered and raw
splayed out on the floor, a beautifully, brutal practice of fortification never aching to flea
As I hold those delicate fragments, geodes waking from winter’s stagnance,
I feed my soul’s intimate starvations
I wine and dine
I bend and bind myself
Till I can hear the beating drum, no longer declining my purpose,
the heart never meant to collect dust on a shelf
A flutter in time ripples as I fold and unwind myself, this serpentine spine, I melt
For it is no crime,
That my undoing, the breaking in bending has become my internal shrine
I choose to stay,
I play in the wealth of my imagination
I bend till I break to discover new foundation
Never looking away, I swear to be the lover in my own liberation.”
I read this and reread this and I read it again until it sunk in.
These were the words I was looking for. These are the words that so eloquently describe the magic that happens on my mat.
Every time I arrive at my mat, it’s the beginning of my becoming. I choose to practice so I can break—so I can shed the layers of sludge that piled on my skin from the things I’ve learned unnecessarily.
The breaking is not unwanted. It’s not evil or avoided. It’s welcomed, vulnerably, with open arms and a wide, exposed heart. It’s the surrendering to becoming soft—to crawl out of the stiffened shell we created to “protect” ourselves, but really, was only sheltering us.
I don’t want to be who I’ve been taught to be. I want to be who I am. And that is why I practice. Because when I practice, I become me.
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