This is my favourite time of morning. Early morning rituals of cat-feeding, coffee-brewing, yoga practice and meditation are complete. The kitten watches me curl up on the couch with the laptop and does a fabulous run-and-leap from across the room onto my lap for our next ritual of sitting down together as I study, read, or journal. She sleeps, of course. And I contort myself around her to reach the keyboard without disturbing her. This small bliss.
The recent decision to establish a morning yoga practice came after deciding to establish a morning and evening meditation ritual to manage chronic stress. The tradition of yoga, after all, aims to liberate the mind from the body for meditation with the understanding that if you are healthy and flexible, you are less distracted from meditation by discomfort in the body. Ashtanga Vinyasa appeals most to me for this purpose because one builds on the same sequence over time. In routine, there is no guess-work, no thinking. This effect being congruent with my goals for meditation, I’ve started a daily practice following the primary series.
This morning was Day 5.
Already I am noticing significant change in both the body and the mind. The body is gradually opening up in places that have been frozen for years. From practice to practice, this opening is creating a neurological pattern that is ‘remembered’ in the tissues and carried in from one day to the next. I notice structural differences, as if my body is re-programming my movement patterns. I notice changes within the ligaments, specifically within my knees, lumbar spine, shoulders and wrists. Residual pain in the areas of past trauma remind me to go slowly into these new postures, to follow the breath.
Ashtanga is not a workout.
It is a spiritual practice. I didn’t know this until now. The mistake I have always made with yoga is treating it like a workout and scheduling it as part of a weekly routine. I did yoga so that I could run/hike/dance/etc. In this week, however, I witness the ways in which yoga aids in opening the energy gateways of the body that, indeed, optimize healing among other strengthening and toning effects. Yoga, in many ways, must stand apart from “fitness workouts” to which I often, masochistically subject my body.
Perusing the internet to investigate others’ integrations of a daily Ashtanga practice, I see a common thread reflecting my own concerns with weigh and body image: will I lose weight? Will this practice give me the body that I want? This morning, after five days of daily practice, I come to understand yoga differently. I’m willing to let this obsession with achieving the most perfectly fit body pass. My new aim is balance. To do yoga without aggravating injury, I need to counterbalance with stability/strength-training. And to counterbalance the shortening effects of strength-training, I need to practice cardiovascular/endurance training.
Suddenly, my priorities are dynamically inverted!
The weight-loss is coming. I’m maintaining 8 lbs down, with the goal of dropping 4-6 lbs more while maintaining muscle mass. This doesn’t sound like much, but its always the final 5 lbs that are the most difficult to permanently shift. Typically, what is needed to make this shift is a permanent lifestyle change. Really, what I’m aiming to reduce is the fluctuation in weight that comes with falling ‘out of balance’ at intervals, usually with exams. I’m addressing this with diet, and I’m also addressing this with twice-daily meditation. Ah, the cycle! …And yoga, bringing unity to the whole.