yoga: the struggle is real but worth it

It’s almost 9am and I am just waking up.

It is later than I have been used to. My schedule is my own. I do not have a job or children so I have the opportunity to let my body wake up when it wants to.

My body feels stiff as I stretch and reach to awaken. I attended a yoga class the day before and the new sequence hit a few muscles that hadn’t been engaged in a while. I can feel my quads, my back and chest. It is a great feeling even though I would label it as sore. My skin is a little sensitive because the class was a sweaty one, it’s not hot yoga but the sweat is a testament to how challenging the practice can be.

As my mind started to wake up I thought, “okay, time to lay down your mat and start moving” but instead I felt the need to write before I begin my day.

I wanted to talk about my yoga practice a little.

Most days I hesitate and some days I talk myself out of it. I should clarify. I talk myself out of the physical practice of postures or asana. The reasons are simple and usually sound something like, too tired, I will do it later or no thanks. I don’t judge myself. I used to but part of my practice is to quit judging myself.

The days I do step on my mat though, mmmm, the magic that unfolds is hard to describe but I will try.

I unroll my mat and wipe it down with a scented spray. Smell has always played a big role in my ritual. A scent can override any resistance or self-sabotaging thoughts that are standing in my way. I swear the smell of my new Jade yoga mat was what initiated my practice about 8 years ago.

I light at least 3 candles and burn a little sage.

I sit for a moment and close my eyes. I let any remaining struggle in my head quiet down and then I bring my hands to my heart. I set my intention. I have said the same thing to myself for the past 4 years now. I have watched this empower my life day by day. I feel a silent om move from my mouth down to my toes. Then I begin.

In the morning my body is slow to start. My lower back is usually a bit tight and it is the first area to start talking when I move through my first sun salutation. I inhale and reach up; I am excited for the next movement because I already know that my lumbar spine and surrounding tissue is going to get it’s first release of the day. I exhale to fold forward. My spine extends; it feels restrained but good… I know that in about 40 minutes I will be in a full backbend where my back will feel fully opened and strong. Inhale. Lengthen. My hamstrings let me know what they are willing to do today. Exhale and step back, lowering my body slowly toward the floor. I am reminded of how strong my arms are. I press away from the floor and inhale. I am reminded of how open my heart can be. Exhale and press back. I rest into downward facing dog. Some days this feels easy and smooth. Some days it doesn’t feel very good, my shoulders ache, my hamstrings pull and shake or my back hurts. This posture always serves to make me reflect on the choices I have made to get me where I am in this moment. I know that the things I am feeling on a physical level are most often influenced by my actions of the previous day or week or life (ha!).

The food I ate.
The alcohol I drank or did not drink.
The times I decided not to do my physical practice.
The things I did say and the arguments I had.
The things I did not say.
The hugs I gave.
The love I hid.
The love I shared.

All of this flows through me in the first moments of my practice. Most days by my second or third sun salutation my mind is at rest as my body takes on the rest of the postures. There are days that does not happen though. I might get hung up on something. An action or a choice that presents itself and stays with me. I let my body do the work to move through experience, opening up and releasing tension so that I can move forward without resistance. And if there is anything remaining after savasana, I know this is my work for the moment.

To add or remove certain things from my diet.
To move my body.
To share and hug and love and be honest.
To be kind.
To be gentle with others and also with myself.

This is one of the ways that yoga has changed my life. Self-reflection. It gives me the opportunity to observe my body and mind, to reflect on how my actions affect me even in the most subtle of ways. Yoga postures highlight the things that are in line and out of line with maintaining balance, the intended balance that you accept and aspire to in your life. If there is something blocking my ability to hold downward dog with ease, be it tight shoulders or that my mind is agitated, then I know I need to take a closer look. Yoga (asana) gives me the space to make intentional choices about how I want to feel and how I want to step forward into the world.

I want to feel empowered today. To feel strong and free. I want to show up for those I meet with joy and support.

I know the best way for me to attain my hopes is to step onto my mat and put it all into action.

Originally written on November 10, 2017 HERE

By: Jess Nickerson

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