My yoga practice is changing. My first pregnancy has made me slow down a lot. As my body changes, my yoga practice is also becoming softer and rounder, with a lot more surrender.
I must admit, I miss the feeling of lifting, twisting and bending into shapes that would have seemed impossible for me 5 years ago. And it turns out, my ego drives a lot of my yoga practice. I have to drown out the voice that demands: Hey I can do that! Push more!
Physical asanas get the most attention out of the 8 limbs in today’s world of yoga but the other 7 limbs, none of which have anything to do with handstands, are just as important to practise.
These other limbs speak exactly about the things that my pregnant body is making me contemplate:
- Vairagya or non-attachment to the body, fears, and other aversions and,
- Our tendency to treat what is transient as eternal: one of the forms of avidya or ignorance that can cause unneeded sufferings.
- Being mindful, without living in the past or future
My yoga practice started as my only place of mindfulness. Even after 7 years of practicing, I have to keep bringing my mind back from wandering multiple times.
Come back. Come back. Come back.
An hour on my mat usually goes something like this:
Breathe, breathe, intention, movement with breath. Then, comes an asana where I can’t take the most advanced option. My brain switches back on: How many more practices will it take for me to get there?
Breathe, breathe, move. A woman in front of me is wearing a pair of cute pants and my mind wandered off to online shopping.
Breathe, breathe, move. My stomach rumbles and I think of dinner, which makes me think of my to-do list, which makes me think of something funny I heard, and wait, did I turn off my hair straightener this morning? Back to the breathing.
I get into a complex pose, and my ego cuts in: Wow, look what I, Crystal, can do! And I’m lost in pride, attached to my body. Back to the moment. Breathe. Savasana.
And as always, the yoga mat is a mirror of how I am in the rest of life.
I'm chatting with a friend and my mind wanders to my weekend plans. I scroll through Facebook before bed while talking to my husband, because he’ll be there in the morning, right? While making plans for the baby, I start thinking of next Christmas, and the year after that, and suddenly I’m 15 years down the road wondering which high school she will go to.
I’m lucky to have people that I love spread across 4 continents. However, that means I’m literally never with everyone that I want to be with. And especially with the baby coming, I get overwhelmed when I think about her spending enough time with everyone, everywhere.
Suddenly I’m so far away from the present moment, so much into the past or future, I’m suffering from things that can’t be changed, or may never come to pass.
But these days, something else brings me back. A flutter in my belly; an ever-present reminder of transience and impermanence. When something as delicate as a life forming, I can’t help but think only in seconds or minutes, and it reminds me of our own delicacy. She's with me right now, for now.
The only option then is to take things one moment at a time. To practice non-attachment to the way things are at this moment in life. To embrace the true nature of our transient world – that things can change in an instant. To not take a single moment with anyone for granted. To focus on the time we have together, rather than the time we don’t. These naturally leads to practicing mindfulness as much as I can.
I’m reading an excellent book The Miracle of Mindfulness, and a simple line from that book calls out to me:
Only this actual moment is life.
All this awareness started from the yoga mat. So while nailing that arm balance feels amazing, the invaluable stuff comes from practicing breathing with movement again and again. When that practice of now starts to influence our thinking off the mat, that’s when things really get good.
So I’m taking this all as a lesson, as my yoga and my body double-team me, forcing a little bit of clarity. The important thing is:
To keep coming back to now…now...now
To keep weaving together a lifetime of “nows”. Because now is all there ever is.
By Crystal Gilliam