My love affair with yoga has been off and on since I was in my mid-twenties (think “it’s complicated” and you’ll get the right idea).
I have moved – on every level – through what I am now coming to think of as the “many phases of yoga” – discovering first its near-miraculous ability to help me and my body stop openly hating each other, next its powerful detoxifying properties (those were the hot yoga years) and now, its transformative impact on my beleaguered and exhausted thyroid.
But in choosing to embrace yoga for a third time thus far in life, I am also getting SO much more than even all of that. For this, I credit my YouTube yoga teacher, internet celeb and actress Adriene Mischler of #yogawithadriene, whose teaching motto is “find what feels good.”
Adriene has a unique strategy for slipping each essential lesson into my psyche. She waits until I am wobbling about so desperately, just flailing for balance, sure I’m about to crash land on my own hardwoods, and then casually says something like “Create space by opening through the chest.”
Hah. Sure. I’ll get right on that as soon as I’m done performing Swan Lake over here.
But then I notice it. Space. Where before there was that sickening tight pulling sensation in my shoulders and neck area, there is more….ease. Breath. Relief. Release.
Then, just as my consciousness has started to catch up, Adriene might brightly exclaim something like “this stuff really works – I’m getting totally zenned out!” And I realize, yet again, she is right.
If you scroll back through some recent blog posts here, you will find other Adriene-isms I’ve blogged about, including “take up space,” “find what feels good,” “give your thinking mind a break,” “notice what it feels like to be alive today.”
In the six months since I’ve re-started my yoga practice with Adriene as my guide, I’ve now begun to realize she usually has to repeat each phrase several or a hundred times before I even hear her saying it. “Create some space” was no exception.
But even though I wasn’t hearing her saying “create space,” I was already feeling it. And I was feeling that space opening up in more areas than in just my physical form, my tight shoulders, my crunched spine, my stiff neck or grumpy lower back.
At the same time I’ve been working near-daily with Adriene online, I’ve also been plowing my way through a diverse and ever-expanding list of self-help type books….the precise type of books I previously believed I would never ever again find myself reading.
But I am now realizing at a whole new and deeper level that when one part of me (in this case, my thyroid) breaks down, it needs help from all the other parts of me to get back on its feet again. And this means not just other body parts, but mind parts, heart parts and soul parts as well.
The books I’ve been turning to for extra assistance in these areas, each written by incredible, insightful authors like Anthony William, Martha Beck, Don Miguel Ruiz, Frank Ostaseki and others, are simultaneously teaching me how to create space in other parts of me that have been feeling crunched and cramped and constrained and basically the opposite of spacious for longer than I care to contemplate.
For example, I am learning from Anthony William how to feed my body healthy foods that can also detox my anxious, over-stretched endocrine and immune system. From Martha Beck, I am taking lessons in how to drop into wordlessness, connect through oneness, open to imagination and then bring my imagination – for healing and other impossible-feeling life dreams – into my waking daily life.
Don Miguel Ruiz is reminding me continuously that my process begins and continues with me as I recommit to always doing my best, not taking anything personally, not making assumptions, being impeccable with my word and being skeptical while still learning to listen. And Frank Ostaseki is teaching me to have compassion for myself and all beings – after all, every day we take one step closer to death and also one step closer to the chance to live a life that feels fully alive.
There are other helpers as well – my very small circle of intimate heart-friends (which includes a certain rambunctious set of feathers and two precious shells) have been a sanity-saver, and I sneak away to nature – the beach, a campsite, the hills or mountains – as often as I can to remember there is so much more to life than my set of big city worries.
Slowly, I can feel more space opening up. Mostly, I notice by the sound it makes – it is the creaking, cracking sound of musty, dusty floorboards that haven’t been walked across in decades or maybe ever. Space opening up isn’t always comfortable. It can hurt! And the challenges I face to open up space in certain maximum security corners of my body, mind or heart don’t look like anyone else’s challenges. The space-making steps forward that I take sometimes feel so impossibly tiny when compared to the effort required to take them.
And yet, I persevere. Why? Because when I do manage to pry open just a teensy tiny bit more space inside the previously cramped quarters within me, it feels SO GOOD.
Today’s Takeaway: Sometimes (and especially when surfing around on social media) it feels like everyone but me is busy hang-gliding through the wide open spaces in this world and their own lives while I am stuck sticking one toe outside my front door. Can you relate? But to each our own….it takes the time it takes….[insert favorite true cliche here.] What helps you create some space in areas inside you where space is really needed?