Stillness and movement can be friends; lessons from the yoga mat

As my regular readers will know, I’ve recently committed to attending one yoga class a week for the fall. In three weeks, I’ve made it to the studio five times (and had intended to go a sixth time, but slept in and missed the 8 am class, then got distracting knitting on a lace shawl until 10:00, fully intending to go to the 10:30, arrived at 10:20 to see a ‘back at 10:45’ sign on the door, right beside the schedule, which showed the morning classes to be at 8 and 9:30… apparently, my mind confused the schedules of the yoga studio and the aerobics studio where I work).

Although I’m loving the stretching and quiet meditation, I must admit that I find many of the poses very challenging. In part, because the muscles in my legs and butt are tight (I have had several training injuries arising directly from these ‘tightnesses’), but also because some of the poses are held for an eternity a long time.

Holding downward dog (adho mukha svanasana; I’m working on learning the proper names, mainly so I don’t have to crane my neck trying to figure out what the instructor is doing when she/he asks us to assume a pose) for longer than 20 s is excruciating for me. And pigeon pose (kapotasana)? I spend every second of the pose convincing myself not to flee from the room.

Those two poses in particular make me feel fidgety, rather than calm. Make my heart race, rather than quiet. My breathing becomes shallow and erratic (although I tend to forget about breathing as I try to keep my thoughts from pinging around the room). Not exactly the relaxation that I anticipated yoga would bring. But of course there are poses to relax in and poses to work towards 😉

Yesterday, during savasana (corpse pose; I love this name!), I was struck by a thought. An insight into my own personality. An ‘aha’, if you will.

The reason I struggle so much with the ‘holding’ of poses is because stillness is not my natural way of being.

I thrive on movement. I’m a group fitness instructor, personal trainer and mother of three very active kids, for goodness sake. Most of my days are spent surrounded by people, music and physical activity in an aerobics studio, on a spinning bike, in the noisy gym or the company of chattering children.

I mentioned my challenge to the instructor, who gave me another way to think about stillness. “Even in stillness, there is movement. The movement of your breath.”

Yes, it is a small movement, but focusing on that small movement of my lungs and ribcage, rather than the difficulty of the pose, carried  me through the remainder of the class and indeed, through the rest of my movement-filled day.

The lesson could also be turned on it’s head, don’t you think? Even in movement, one can find (or create) stillness. It’s harder, no doubt, but I think it’s exactly what I need right now.

Have you ever had an ‘aha’ moment while exercising?

How do you create stillness in your day?

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Comments

  1. I have “aha” moments all the time in yoga and sometimes when running. I think it has something to do with being so comfortable with what you’re doing that you’re not thinking about how to do it and your mind just wanders.

    • I’m not surprised that running works like yoga for letting your mind wander; although I’m guessing that trail running requires a little for focus and attention on the task at hand? LOL

  2. You nailed it on the head T!

    it IS the still ness that is hard for me too but I am learning (and learning and learning) to appreciate that and develop it too.

    Yoga used to be all about stretching for me (and it was not a challenge ever) but the sitting and even meditating certainly was and still is!

    good for you!

  3. My instructor also reminded us that our minds were not our enemies. That we don’t need to work so hard to quiet them, but instead, relegate them to background noise. My background noise sometimes sounds like a jackhammer!

    I’m loving your little knitting! Let me know if you need more scraps; I always have little bits and pieces left over after my projects are done.

  4. Hi Tamara, I love when you talk about yoga. I imagine that when I’m in a yoga pose and struggling to balance and remain calm, there’s TONS of movement on very intricate levels — with my nerves trying to keep me from falling, with my muscles screaming over their present isometric contraction, and within my brain, trying desperately to calm me down and keep me from the flee reflex.