Being sick sucks - no doubt about it - but I have found that being sick (like I was this past weekend with a mild case of the flu) is a potent reminder of how important it is to move into stillness.
When illness shows up in my body, usually my first thought is, oh no, I can't do yoga. This time around, though, I changed that thought pattern to, wait, I can still do yoga, I just can't do some of the asana or the physical practice.
I started to reflect on how asana is just a small window into the vast world of yoga; just one wave undulating in the wide open ocean of this practice.
Asana is a very important aspect of yoga that I love deeply and that kept bringing me back to my yoga mat when I first started practicing. But over the years, especially after my recent training with Amy Ippoliti, I have been reawakened to the other enchanting facets that weave themselves through the practice. I've begun to reestablish my connection to the other qualities that bring rich complexity to the practice; that illuminate asana and that have a longer life span than the physical practice: pranayama, meditation, mindfulness, Sanskrit.
Exploring these other realms digs up fresh soil, reinvigorating our love, our appreciation and our dedication to the practice.
They also address some very realistic questions: What do I do on days when I am feeling off? Tired or weak? What about when I'm sick? Injured? Old?
These very real questions turn our attention to the fact that only dedicating ourselves to the physical practice will leave us deprived of yoga if or when we are sick or otherwise physically unable to move on our mat. Not to mention that only giving our energy to asana totally discounts the other huge slices of the sweet pie and also the potential of our own miraculous being.
Those three days I was sick and bed-ridden, I turned to the stiller parts of yoga. But though they may seem more still, they are just as magnetizing as any asana practice. I was filled with a kind of inspiration I haven't experience in a while. I layed in bed studying Sanskrit words, chanting mantra and I felt how the vibration of those healing sounds have the power to make my whole body ring and loosen any layers of weight that keep me from being here, in the abundance of right now.
I practiced breathing exercises, or pranayama, and found myself marveling at simply the translation of 'pranayama' :
Pran = unit of time.
Ayama = extending
Pranayama = extending unit of time/life force.
I have had profoundly inspiring and humbling moments in my asana practice. But what I feel when I spend time with the language of yoga, the science of breath and the art of stillness, reminds me that the physical postures are gateways into something much deeper. They are the path to the vast reserves and resources we all possess. They guide us to that joyful ripening of our core; the seed buried deep within us that holds the spark, the fire, the vivid colors of wonder, the curiosity and potential for new and bigger life.
As my teachers, Amy Ippoliti & Tara Michelle, beautifully say, "Take one step toward the divine and the divine floods you."
There have been days on my mat where I have been cracked open and I cannot contain the emotions moving through me that day. These are days when my sadness, joy, pain and celebrations have been coaxed to the surface. And though that cracking open occurs in a physical posture, it ususally occurs from those other elements: a moment of complete awareness, a message from my breath, the sounds in a chant, the strong sensations that brew in the aftermath of a pose, noticing the pulsations beneath the surface of my skin that remind me of how wildly alive I am.
This is yoga. This is what does not fade or fluctuate with the changes and aging of our human bodies. These are the pieces that always fit into the puzzle of our moving lives.
And what a blessing to have access to these tools that crack us open and reveal our precious nature; that offer us glimpses into the grandiosity of who we truly are.
A *huge* thank you to my beautiful and inspiring teachers, Amy Ippoliti & Tara Michelle, for reawakening my passion and love for yoga. So much love for you two amazing women <3
Listen to the recording here: