When I hear the word “grace,” I typically think one of two things: a) my dad’s elder sister who is named Grace, or b) religion, specifically in reference to Christianity and Jesus.
I don’t think about my relationship with my body, or at least I never did until Day 21 of the 30-day yoga course I am taking on YouTube.
Every day, our instructor, Adrienne, picks a theme. On Day 21, the theme was “release.” The way this course works is, Adrienne will guide us through some poses, and then, while I’m busy wobbling about and frantically clawing for balance, she will issue wise instructions about how to live life (what she calls “off the mat”) through the clear lens of yoga (what she calls “on the mat”).
As she talked about the theme of release on Day 21, she mentioned having grace as we move through the postures and through life. At first, my mind (which technically was already busy evaluating whether my mattress or the nearby dresser looked like a closer source of life-saving stability) heard the word “grace” and got a bit confused.
It’s not that I don’t appreciate the power of words like grace and faith and other words with overtly-religious connotations. It is that my mind tends to grab onto them and twist itself up into a frustrated little pretzel remembering some less-treasured memories of past attempts at fitting in with organized religious communities.
But then luckily, Adrienne went on rather quickly to explain she was talking about grace in the sense of movement – like grace-full, rather than (as I was demonstrating in that particular pose) grace-less.
She asked us to consider how adding more grace to how we move might also add more grace to the transitions we make as we go about our days. I paraphrase, of course – she said it a lot more eloquently than that, but that’s how I remember it.
This is relevant to me because, when I was young, my mom put me into all kinds of sports. Looking back, I think perhaps she thought because she was a tomboy when she was young that her daughter would be too. Although, frankly, you really only needed to see me in action once to realize I wasn’t about to follow in my mother’s footsteps.
Soccer. Baseball. T-ball. Gymnastics. Cheerleading. Ribbon twirling. It was one physical fitness disaster after another.
The only grace to be found anywhere came in the speed with which I exited the sports field after each event ended and headed for the refreshments stand.
The only sport I kind of liked was ballet….at least until that pivotal, life-changing moment when our practice studio suddenly transformed itself into a recital hall, complete with a curtain and an audience. I truly thought I was going to pee right on the stage, I was so nervous. And I didn’t go back after that.
But the concept of the graceful ballerina has stayed with me all these decades, and so when Adrienne mentioned grace in context with learning to move gracefully through the yoga poses she is teaching us, it reminded me of that little girl who once imagined herself as a graceful ballerina.
I also realized she still thinks that might be possible. I can still see her – can still see me moving gracefully across the studio floor (although not the dance stage!), transitioning with theoretical grace from one movement to the next, not “hitting a pose” and then “hitting another pose,” but blending one into the next as if they are all connected…as if they each belong with the others.
As if I belong here with all the others. As if I, too, can feel connected in all ways and at all levels as I move from one moment in my life through to the next.
I was probably about 9 years old when I took that beginner’s ballet class, so that means I’ve been feeling awkward and grace-less for about 38 years now. But thanks to Adrienne, for the first time in my life, I am suddenly hopeful I might actually get my wish at last.
In this practice, I am learning that when I give grace to my wobbling body as it gamefully attempts each new pose, to my mind as it attempts to stay focused on the yoga lesson at hand, to my breath and the emotions that come up throughout, I get grace back.
I get it back again and again. Although I wouldn’t say I am anywhere near being truly graceful on the mat as of yet, somehow I am feeling more graceful off the mat as each day passes.
Today’s Takeaway: What does your mind think of when it hears the word “grace?” Have you ever thought of it in reference to your body, your movements, how you move about and through each day? Have you ever had an experience where you truly felt graceful, whether or not there was any physical (or spiritual) activity going on?