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Yoga Practice: 5 months and counting

170 days into my daily early morning practice of yoga and meditation.

I am stunned by how it feeds me.

Sunbird, South Africa

I wake between 5 and 6:30 am, still groggy, but know I won’t be able to go back to sleep. Crawling out of bed, I dress in the yoga clothes I set out the night before, and head downstairs to the room where I practice.

I shut the door, collect my small teak-carved Ganesh from the shelf, kneel in front of the fireplace, light a candle and set Ganesh next to it.

Unroll my mat, straighten it on the rug.

Stepping barefooted to a small table by the window, I pick up the short, thick wooden dowel, tunk it lightly against the singing bowl, and let it ring through me, absorbing its song, its offering of peace.

My practice is my own. I have been to classes in the past, picked up postures from friends and daughters, studied books and videos. But I practice alone, in silence.

First, I lie on a foam roller, moving back and forth to unstiffen back and shoulder muscles. Do a bit of physical therapy.

Then I drop into a plank.

There is something incredibly powerful for me about planks.

Arms straight, legs extended, belly tight, back straight--

I awaken into myself. Even at my most weary, I feel strength return.

Right arm raised to ceiling. Down. Left arm raised. Down. Roll to side plank. 30 seconds. Repeat on other side. Down to plank on elbows. 30 seconds. Rest. Child’s pose, folding to my heels, belly to thighs.

I am ready now.

Mountain breathing clouds, Cape of Good Hope, South Africa

Stand in Mountain Pose. Breathe. Feel my feet melding with the mat, the floor, the earth below. Head erect, eyes closed. Press palms together, thumbs on breastbone. Breathe. Swing arms up, bend, touch the floor, sweep arms back up, lower palms back to chest.

Each movement feels like ritual now. My opening, my prayer, my grounding. I move into my version of sun salutation. Notice each loosening and contracting of muscle.

When my mind wanders, so does my focus, and sometimes I fall over.

Return, I remind myself. Do not let thoughts intrude.

This is the only time today you have to do this one move.

Keep each moment sacred, one pose gliding into the next.

My gifts after 170 days? Stronger muscles. Focus. Flexibility. I find myself adjusting my posture during the day, coming back to mountain pose. Doing plank push-ups using the edge of the kitchen counter. Raising my arms after sitting too long to reach for the sky.

Arms raised while tubing in Quebec, -29 C

But I also have learned to adjust. Early flights, birds that must be seen at dawn, or low energy can all create the need for adjustments—a little less of this or that.

And I have found peace with the adaptations. But mostly, I luxuriate, spend time with the practice, nourishing every fiber.

It is simply how I begin.

Hummingbird, Peru 2015

In my next post I will talk about the meditation portion of my practice, and about pranayama, the breathing exercises, which I enter into next. All parts of my practice flow together so seamlessly now, I cannot imagine one without the other.

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