I began 2016 as I began 2015 – with a yoga practice.
Last New Years was my inaugural foray into this ancient art. My theme for last year was self-care so I joined a group of healthy-looking souls and did my best to keep up with the stretches and reaches, the contortions and down dogs. What impressed me the most was the BREATHING – talk about opening your heart and mind – WOW! What a gulp of oxygen will do for a body! But the best part was the soothing voice that led us. An enlightened soul entreating us to “let go” to “be you on your mat” “to do whatever is available to you”.
This was a whole new way of thinking and being for me. Who knew my soul needed to hear this soft compassionate voice encouraging me to “just be me”? My heart felt soothed – I could feel my muscles letting go – my mind leaving the “worried thinking” and constant buzz of have to’s. But also opening to the encouraging word of potential; our teacher told us we all have the potential to stand on our heads, to do a back bend, the splits- but we don’t have to. We can do what is right for us at this time and place…
I loved the permission to JUST BE WITH WHAT IS.
Now, I’m in the business of compassion. I offer it up on a regular basis in my practice as a marriage and family therapist, so this concept was not new to me. What I didn’t realize was how much I needed a heaping helping of it for myself. I had no idea how profound the impact of hearing this soft and accepting voice would have on my sense of calm and well-being. It was like receiving water in a parched desert. You know that feeling when you didn’t realize how thirsty you were until you started drinking that cool glass of water, or how tired you were until you crawled into your cozy bed at night, or how hungry you were until you smelled the chicken soup simmering on the stove. My soul began to crave the yoga mat, the soft light, the stretch and strength, the sweat and breath, the soothing voice of acceptance.
Since that day I have tried many programs and classes – evening hot yoga where the sweat of 30 bodies created a virtual steam bath, restorative yoga where we lay on a cloth log and let our back stretch into positions unlike any I have experienced before, sunrise yoga, late night candle-lit yoga and even cardio-yoga. Each teacher has imparted a few gifts of knowledge, wisdom, technique and affirmation.
And I have become a yoga groupie.
I now belong to 3 different yoga studios. I have my favorite classes and teacher and even bring my mat with me on vacation. The lessons I have learned this year have been many and varied-but they all boil down to this:
We need a place to go to restore and rejuvenate. We need a shelter from the storms of life and a way to center and get grounded. Yoga has been that place for me this year, and I will be forever grateful to my dear friend for introducing me to this practice.
Last week I had the unique privilege of welcoming in the New Year with an awesome yoga class at the base of Seattle’s Iconic Space Needle, in the glass Atrium under the flowing flower creations of Seattle’s own Dale Chihuly.
As we began our practice the sun rose over the horizon bathing us in a pristine and warm light as we held our mountain poses and performed our sun salutations. It was magic.
As we lay in savasana, we set our intentions for our New Year. I was filled with gratitude for this amazing city I live in, for the wonderful community of people I encounter on a daily basis, for my health and physical well-being and for the meaningful work I am privileged to do – as well as this new found practice of not only yoga but of self-compassion and acceptance.
I’m also inspired by my guru Brené Brown and her new book Rising Strong, and have begun a new series of workshops based on her ground-breaking work on resilience. In it we learn that the secret to living a whole-hearted life is to connect to our values, honor our vulnerability and dare greatly in our personal and professional lives.
As we closed our New Year’s Day yoga practice, our instructor shared this awesome vision with us as that I want to share with you…
Feel all of your experiences of 2015 as the ground beneath you – every good and hard experience was what brought you to this place today; be grateful for them all, for they are the teachers and the lessons that have grown you.
Think of all you have to do and be in 2016 as the air above you – all your dreams for the future, your intentions for your life, your goals and hopes and potential awaits you.
The important point in-between is the capacity and potential of your physical, emotional and spiritual selves – the unique and precious gifts that you have been given. You are the creator of what lies ahead – be mindful of this gift. Be mindful of your potential, your calling and your opportunities…