Yoga & Stillness


I take a yoga class every Monday and Wednesday morning.  I love it.  Yoga has become more of a spiritual practice for me throughout the years.  Not in the creepy “Voodoo” “New Age” way a lot of people think it can be.  I just believe more things are sacred than not sacred.  Sharing meals, taking walks, children’s laughter, music, yoga class – it’s all sacred.  Yoga class is place I can go to relax, quiet my mind, and remind myself of important truths like: acceptance, worthiness, rest…and…gasp…stillness.  Stillness: the thorn in my side.

I’m really not into the whole stillness thing. I’m constantly going.  If I’m not literally on the move, my mind is moving a mile a minute. Wait in a line?  Ha!  I don’t wait.  I grab my phone to check the news, reply to texts and look at Facebook for the 100th time.  To me, total stillness in the body and mind feels similar to pain.  And I avoid it.

I went to yoga this past Wednesday morning, and the instructor informed us that we would be working on deeper relaxation.  Coming up on mid-semester, I was thrilled to have some extra time to enter my Zen-Beast mode.  We did some basic movements for the first 30 minutes, then made our way to our backs for a recorded 20-minute guided relaxation session.  We were supposed to stay still.  Perfectly still.

At first, I found it to be extremely soothing.  The voice coming over the speakers was encouraging us to focus on each body part, noticing the way it felt, allowing it to melt, to ground.  Then I realized I wasn’t doing a damn thing.  I wasn’t producing, I wasn’t tweeting, I wasn’t creating.  I was simply on the floor.  Still.  Perfectly still.

I had a panic attack.  All at once, every part of my body felt like it needed to be moved.  I wanted to bend my knees, shake my hands, lick my lips, blink my eyes.  I didn’t want to be grounded; I wanted to run.  Just to DO something. But I stayed.  Not because I wanted to learn some deep truth about withstanding lack of comfort.  No, I mostly stayed because I didn’t want anybody to think I chickened out.  Purely  egotistical reasons.

After it was all done (Thank heaven above) the instructor asked how we liked it.  I told her it gave me anxiety.  I wasn’t doing anything.  She said kindly: “You were doing something.  You were relaxing.”

I realized – Why is relaxing not a thing?  Why do we live in a “crazy busy” world?  We call our friends, ask how they are, and how do they respond? “I’m crazy busy.”  Doing all these things.  Why is relaxing not a thing?  Why is rest not a thing?

Yoga, then, is a spiritual and sacred practice for me, because it’s sanding off the rough edges of the bigger part of myself.  I am flesh and bone and muscle, yes.  But I am more than flesh and bone and muscle.  I work out my body in the gym.  I work out my mind in a classroom.  I need to work out this bigger part of me somewhere, this spiritual part of me.

And this spiritual part of me freaks out in stillness.  In the Christian faith, God says: “Be still and know that I am God.”  Buddha said: “Still and calm is he who has awakened.” There is a reason the world’s religions talk about being still.  It is important to this bigger side of us.  Stillness allows us to be grounded.  In my daily productive, intentional, disciplined life – I cannot forget that relaxation, rest, and stillness are all “things” too.  And they don’t make me less productive, intentional, disciplined – quite the opposite I’m sure.

I’m going to keep practicing my stillness even if I hate it.  Maybe I will freak out again, but maybe I will freak out a little less.  I won’t hate on myself for disliking it.  I won’t chastise myself for wiggling my toes.  Who knows?  Maybe some day I will really be a Zen-Beast.  Maybe not.  Probably not.  But I just might be a stiller, more grounded version of myself in this “crazy busy” life.  I can have the wings and fly and move and dream big; but I have to have the roots too.

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