Today my 14 – month – old – baby girl did a little yoga with me. It was not the yoga practice I had envisioned or thought I needed but it was something. The something consisted of deep breathing, a little stretching and one plank. But mostly, it was a whole lot of failed attempts at getting into a pose and then stopping as her little delicious body waddled over to me complete with a runny nose and new toothy grin.
It reminded me of why I do yoga in the first place. And it certainly has nothing to do with tight abs (I love my muffin top, thank you very much). Or doing a pose right or wrong.
Yoga is a unique and imperfect practice. It is about flexibility. But not so much about the kind of flexibility associated with touching our toes.
The kind of flexibility that yoga requires of us teaches us how to open up to our present, slowly and gracefully like an unraveling silky ribbon. When we come into the present moment with tenderness and a subtle curiosity, we set aside expectations of how we think things should look and allow things to be just as they are. And this includes all of our messy human emotions and wacky thoughts.
In yoga, we attempt to settle into our postures by taking a moment to drop in, out of the thinking mind, and into the heart space or seat of the pose. This feels like stepping into a warm bath when it’s a pose we can easily sink into it. And stepping on a bed of nails during a more challenging pose.
But as my dear friend and teacher Charlotte lovingly reminds us in class, we need to “find a way to be here.” Find a way to be in each posture, whether it is a challenging one or one that feels like an ocean breeze. Find a way than enables us to keep breathing. Find a way that feels true and honest. This will most likely look completely different than everyone else in the room. And this is a beautiful, sacred and humbling experience.
Because it is an indication that we are opening up our present. And that we are listening to our bodies, our hearts and souls and not letting the critical voice take center stage.
It takes courage. And to get to courage, I am reminded by what my close friend Stephanie said to me years ago and what was echoed more recently in a podcast I listened to featuring author and Omega Institute founder, Elizabeth Lesser. Both talked about keeping a strong back and soft heart. When things get tough and we need courage, we can’t ban what we deem as weakness, we invite it in instead. And we can’t be all gush by abandoning our strength and power either. We need both. We sit up with our spines tall while at the same time softening our hearts to the unfolding. To allow this vulnerability is the way we find courage and it is needed when opening up to our present moment, whatever awaits us inside.
So while we find a way to be here, a way of being truthful, brave, and compassionate to our present, may it be a way that radiates truth, kindness, ease, and love. Whether we are running, waddling or rolling, with runny noses, toothy grins or grimaces, may our backs be strong, our hearts soft, and our minds flexible – no matter the pose. And when we open ourselves only then can we truly open our presents.