Namaste…the Truth Behind the Practice of Yoga

With the sunrise brought focused intentions to commence the weekend with love and gratitude to my body. My physical being had taken a battering through the week. The joints were stiff and craving gentle yet purposeful movement. My mind equally required the indulgence of space and silence.

Mother Earth had fully embraced the elements that constituted summer and appeared to be answering the people’s cries for the heat in an abundance. The morning sun was already unbearable and suffocating. Stepping out of the summer elements, I enter the beautiful space where I practice yoga and able to breathe a sigh of relief at the cool air circulating. The yoga studio is a nice balance of colour and energy. I am greeted with a welcoming and warm embrace by Anne, my yoga teacher whose passion is inspiring and infectious.

As the class is preparing to commence, I take position in the middle of the other students and nervously unrolled my most essential asset required in my practice ~ my sky blue yoga mat, decorated with odd leaf like swirls. The mat is just like a childs security blanket – if I focused all of my attention to the mat I may save myself from face planting, stumbling sideways or potentially pass wind as I have witnessed others do.

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Flat on my back…
Palms of the feet touching one another…
Knees fall out to the sides;
Arms stretch overhead…
I let out a huge sigh.

Exhale.
Inhale.
Exhale.
Inhale.
Breathe…

My mind welcomes the gentle sounds of nature facilitated through the music that fills the room with light, energy and serenity. My body embraces the rhythm, allowing a subtle bounce in my movements and a flow through my muscles.  Woven into the sounds is the gentle and mindful voice of Anne. She guides the class through the postures, accompanied by comments that connect the mind and the body to one another meaningfully and purposefully.

As we move through emotionally challenging Matsyasana (fish pose), to physically challenging Paripurna Navasana (full boat pose) and challenges of balance Vrksasana (tree pose), in and amongst the restful postures of Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog) and Balasana (childs pose), I periodically forget to breathe.

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My level of concentration is at a minimal as I am distracted by the obvious tightness throughout my body. My exhaling breath used as a quiet cry of agony. I thrive on the time in yoga as a focus on me and exclusion of the external distractions, however this is not always the practical reality.  Today my mind is distracted by the need to repaint my toe nails, wondering if the cool change will present earlier to provide relief and 88 other unimportant matters to decide at that point.

Closing my eyes and refocusing my breath as I settle into a warrior position, my knees bend deeply into the forward bend, yet realigning my body as I mindfully check through where my hips are facing and where my weight is shifting between. There is a gentleness about this pose that gives my mind strength, yet my arms are attempting to defy gravity. The weight of the world weighs against them as I try to focus attention into the strength in my legs.

As the class draws to an end, we settle into Savasana (corpse pose). I lie on my mat. The music has now changed to the sounds of the ocean. I close my eyes and breathe into my rested position, allowing my body to fall into the floor. Time stands still. I consciously try to focus on the guided meditation of Anne’s voice. I fall in and out of restful sleep, occasionally hearing my breath deepen and wake myself before I snore.

The meditation is interrupted with the gentle sounds of Anne. Complying with instructions:

I wriggle my toes;
The movement travels up my legs, through my torso;
I start wriggling my fingertips…then into my arms;
I move my head side to side.

I hesitantly commence opening my eyes.  The sunshine is streaming through the window and across the floorboards. Bringing myself into a standing position, we face one another. Bringing my hands to prayer position, we bow to one another.  We do so in respect for one another, the time spent and the energy shared… 

Namaste

We echo around the room.  My soul smiles in gratitude…

~F.P

The Ocean Calls… and My Soul Smiles

By Jensen A

By Jensen A

The ocean laid spread before me with a welcoming invitation to enter. The evening remained balmy and uncomfortable, yet the gentle breeze that drifted in from the seas washed upon my bare legs, across my body, kissed my cheeks and slowly rustled my summer hair loosely tied and falling to the side over my shoulder. Overhead the sky glistened. The night was clear and the moon was barely at a quarter, yet the moon hung crisp in its definition and prominence in the sky. Sand beneath my feet was cool. The texture of the sand was fine and grainy yet gentle as it settled within my toes as I shuffled my feet further beneath the surface of the beach. As I look out in amazement at the beauty that lay before me, I smile. The ocean is made of the same elements it always has been, as is the night sky and the sand. Never changing. Simply a constant.
My surrounds immediately transports me to years before from a scene of my own history. The time was one when life was a perfect flow of laughter and adventure. I was a child eager to embark on the amazing life ahead and more than willing to grab every opportunity with both hands. As I lift myself to stand gently brushing away the sand upon my legs, I stretch towards the heavens, breathe in and slowly jog my way into the water that is licking the edge of the shore. I eagerly dip my toes into the ocean the first contact with the cool water is like a spark of injecting life back into my body. The white wash tumbles around my feet summoning me in further. Once I walk further the water is warmer than I expect. The heat of the days before has captured the warmth to make the swim pleasant and not the least bit heart stopping.
I walk further into the ocean. I am blind to the mysteries below; the dangers that lurk beneath. I stub my toes a few times on what I can only guess to be rocks that sit upon the ocean bed, as I patiently move forward and use my feet to attempt to locate safe and solid ground. The seaweed sweeps across my legs and clings as I continue to push through. Before long I am waist deep into the dark ocean – perfect to dive into and fully immerse myself into the ocean. I initially half heartedly duck my head backwards, simply wetting my hair – what I reason to be a prelude into dunking my entire body within. The sensation of the water dripping down my neck and back as I raise my head is a welcomed coolness and reminder of the touch of nature. Giving in completely, I lead with my hands in prayer position and glide beneath the surface of the water, fully and completely surrendering. I cannot see and purely moving upon instinct. The lightness and freedom that washes over was a reminder that my sanctuary was the ocean – the return to nature and all that was pure and a greater force than I.
Laying back, floating ever so effortless amongst the vacancy and void that surrounds, my eyes are averted to the sky, the stars and the endlessness of the open air. While the stars within the sky twinkle and wink at me, there was still obviously the vast amount of stars hidden from sight because of the street lights lined across the walkers’ path at the edge of the beach. I secretly wish for the abundance I had been spoilt with at the lake the weeks before where the sky had been peppered with the beauty. I have always felt drawn to the powers of the ocean. The ocean is my therapy for my mind, my body and my soul. Many years on from my childhood and I am still beaconed to the ocean. My soul sings at the touch of the sand and water and the spectacular view that presents. In a state of complete calm, the moment caught me. It filled my soul with immense feelings of blessings as well as reminders of the great moments of pain. The ocean in its therapeutic manner, encased me within the blanket of the world as my heart felt as though it had momentarily ceased. Time appears to stand still just to allow me a grace period to breathe through life – a breath I had not realized I had held onto so tightly for some time.
A greater wave crashed across my floating being, salt water sweeping across my face startling me back to reality. A childish smile infects my face… nights like these are just heavenly.

~ F.P