Category Archives: Asanas

yoga experiecnes on and off the mat

Time Flies When You’re in Eagle Pose








Come May, I will have been practicing yoga for seven years. Astonishing. No exercise regimen has ever held my attention for even half as long. Perhaps because yoga is so much more than exercise. Or perhaps because yoga exercises so much more than the body. Yoga challenges you mind, patience, spirit. It invites flexibility not only of the muscles but of the mind. No, yoga is no longer exercise for me; over these seven years, my yoga practice has become an inseparable part of who I am, who I’ve become and who I hope to be.

The first class I attended at Karma Yoga, did not go so well. The teacher had us do some sort of hip opener that immediately sent me into an emotional tailspin. There I was in a class full of strangers, on the verge of tears, terrified and shaking to my core, wondering what the heck was going on and why did my friend bring me there. The teacher came over, covered me with a blanket and said, “You’re OK.  I saw it when you came in. Just rest and we’ll talk later.” She saw what when I came in? And rest? How was I supposed to do that when everyone around me was rotating through an entire zoo of poses: eagle, pigeon, camel, fish? After class, quite a few women came up to me, sharing hugs and simpatico looks.  A few even shared their own stories of being overcome by a host of emotions in one pose or another. The teacher and I did talk after class; she described what she saw in my hip as a “huge metal cube.”

Over time, and a good deal of inner work, that cube began to disintegrate. As it did, my balance improved. Flexibility, too. I grew calmer, stronger. A couple of years in, someone said that my whole manner was different. My yoga practice is no longer exercise; it has become an indispensable part of my life, for which I am eternally grateful. Namaste.

That Space Between Breaths

I wrote the following for another site — Red Room — where I occasionally blog. But why not share it here, too. Wishing those who will be fasting a meaningful time of insight and reflection and may all of us be inscribed in the Book of Life for a year of health, loving relationships, and worthy challenges.

I read once that the time of transition — moving from one physical place to another — is prime time for misplacing things. Last night’s homework goes a-missing between one class and another. Belts, cell phones, boarding passes are left behind in those distracted moments in airport security lines.

Metaphorically, transitions make for losing a piece of ourselves. We shift from one life stage to another: frazzled mother of high schoolers to bereft mom of one in high school and one in college faraway; happily working to panicked and unemployed; anchored and married to widowed and moorless.

If we are fortunate, what is eventually found on transition’s other side sustains us: we bask in the newly unfolding relationship with the child left behind and revel in the missing one’s new vistas. We make it through security belted, cell-phoned and ready to board. We find new work, new strengths, possibly a new partner to share life’s transitions with.

My yoga teacher frequently talks about the seconds-long pause between breaths, that moment between exhaling and inhaling when all is still, lungs fully satiated with oxygen or pleasantly emptied and awaiting the next inhalation. She urges us to notice that moment and appreciate it, to stay present and explore it, experience the fullness of being perfectly balanced if only for a second or two. I experience that gap between breaths as velvety blackness, a momentary slip of time when I am so focussed on the now that nothing else fills consciousness, even though what fills it is indefinable. A teacher once commented that God resides in that place.

On my mat, I recall her words. Teetering between breath and no breath I realize it is a micro-moment of death twinned with rebirth’s infinite possibilities. Perhaps in transition we lose nothing but instead embody, if only for a moment, everything.

Funny that I am writing this on the eve of Yom Kippur. The sages teach us that this twenty-five hour period is a mini-death. We are to wear white, the color of burial shrouds. We do not eat or drink, are forbidden from engaging in physical pleasures or adorning ourselves. We enter a space of time suspended between life and death, praying, atoning, hoping that our names will be inscribed for another year of life. We (hopefully) let go of old patterns and fill ourselves with the promising breath of new ones. We are everything and nothing.

At first glance the word “transition” brings to mind movement from one state of being to another. But perhaps pared to its essence, transition is its complete opposite: a moment of supreme stillness embedded with the promise of infinite movement.