just breathe

This year I have committed to making some lasting changes in my own health and wellness. It has been gradual and steady, but I am making strides. (That’s totally a pun since most of my exercise has been coming from walking!)

In addition to physical exercise and making better food choices, I have been very interested in managing the stresses of life (our military life, in particular). I have found the connection between less stress and exercise to be very obvious.

With our YMCA membership, I have been taking the opportunity to try out as many different group exercise classes as possible. I’ve tried Pilates, Zumba and Yoga.

I love group fitness classes, but one thing that I find that comes up is my own need to “be good” at what ever type of exercise is going on. Zumba comes easily to me because I love to dance and can quickly pick up the steps and the moves. It’s a great cardio workout and fun to kind of cut loose to some of the music.

But that need to look like I know what I am doing gets *really* magnified when I go to yoga. Practicing yoga is fairly new to me. I have done some stretches via DVD or iPad app but that is vastly different from participating in a live class with a real instructor and classmates.

*****

Here are four things I have learned in my short time practicing yoga.

“She turned to the sunlight    And shook-2

1. You practice yoga, you don’t perform it.

As someone who has crazy struggles with perfectionism, performance and approval seeking, yoga is showing me a thing or two. I am the “least advanced” person in nearly every class I attend. There are ladies doing forearm handstands that look like lithe ballerinas with the flexibility of Gumby. I’m over in the back row all hunched over trying to bend from the waist to touch my toes without bending my knees.

2. Yoga is all about breathing.

I have realized over the past few years, that when I feel stress or anxiety, I quit taking deep breaths. I breathe from a very shallow place which further tenses me up. In some yoga classes, it’s all I can do to simply get my breathing under control. I know that sounds intense, and it is. When you stop for nearly an hour to simply focus on your breathing, deeply inhale and peacefully exhale, you see just how out of whack you really are.

3. Yoga makes me cry.

Big shocker here. What doesn’t make me cry? No lie, earlier this week as we were stretching and releasing and breathing, I felt tears well up in my eyes. (Three different times in the class, and again when I thanked the instructor afterwards.) I think I live so tensed up and tight and in do-be-serve mode that taking one hour to just be still and relax releases some emotions that I keep securely tucked away.

4. Wisdom comes from a place of rest. 

I have a lifetime bad habit of skipping rest in favor of work and duty and doing. I can’t sleep in, I don’t nap and have a very hard time just chilling out. It always feels like there’s something else I should be doing. Over this past year, I have realized that is terrible for my soul and my health. I am working hard to purposely take time away, to rest and rejuvenate but it doesn’t always come easily to me. Participating in yoga as often as possible is one way I am aiming to work in something restful and rejuvenating into my week.

As I mentioned in #3, I did cry during yoga this past week. The instructor is faithful to give gentle reminders throughout the class (especially for those of us she sees struggling to find our breath, our balance and the ability hold our poses).

You can always return to child’s pose.”

Child’s pose is a very basic pose that stretches the entire body and provides a “reset” or rest position. Often times in the more advanced yoga class, I have to just admit to myself that I need to return to that easy, rest pose. I can’t get my foot all the way up to my inner thigh in the tree pose. I’ve only worked up to resting my foot at my ankle and maybe at my calf if I’m really focused. So when things get tricky or out of my league, I can always return to child’s pose and rejoin the group when I feel ready.

On Tuesday, I just stayed in child’s pose for several minutes and I knew that I was the only one in the class there. With my face to the mat I heard the instructor say “wisdom comes from a place of rest.” And I began to cry because dang-it, she’s absolutely right.

*****

I haven’t been practicing that wisdom over the past few weeks. I have been burning my wick at both ends and I have been feeling especially burnt out.

Admitting that need for rest or a reset is the first step. I need rest. Next is deciding to stay in that posture or position even when everyone else seems to be moving on around you. I need rest and I’m going to stay right here and take it. Finally, resting is all about breathing and getting the oxygen you need. I need deep breaths from the breath of Life. (Genesis 2:7)

I don’t need more tasks, jobs, opportunities. I don’t need more ways to showcase who I am so that you’ll see me, notice me or validate me as a woman/daughter/friend/military spouse. I need more of Him and less of me. I need more margin, space and room to breathe.

Yoga is teaching me this and giving me a window of time to put that into practice.

*****

“Thus says God the LORD, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and its offspring, Who gives breath to the people on it And spirit to those who walk in it,” {Isaiah 42:5}

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4 thoughts on “just breathe

  1. Kathy Milligan says:

    I remember lying on my bed and crying after going for a massage once. It just released tension in my body that I wasn’t even aware of. How sad that we are walking around with that much tension and anxiety. We weren’t created for that! I’m so glad you are finding this place of rest and that you are sharing and reminding us all to take some time to breathe! Love you!!

    Like

    • claire says:

      It is crazy that we carry that much stress around. I’m really trying to pinpoint where this stress comes from. I think I put a lot of it on myself with my own expectations. We are all works in progress =)

      Like

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