I realize that people sign up for one of my yoga classes not because they are doing great, but because they are hurting. Maybe some sign up because they know the blessings that come from this ancient body wisdom, and want community and accountability. But mostly, people come to relieve tightness, pain, and recover from disease or injury. Some feel hopeless, helpless, worried, and afraid. Some aren’t sure this is for them, they were encouraged by friends, family, or health professionals. The ‘shoulds’ dragged them here, but they most likely won’t be back, I can tell before the yoga class is over, usually. Some spend the whole class afraid this movement will make things worse, or not be enough.
Fear and worry aren’t motivators for change. We think in our driven culture— the birthplace of Just Do It, we can work harder, force ourselves to be better with the jackhammer of our will. Overcome our flaws with more hard work. But the old paradigm of work, work, work has failed, and continues to crumble— what we need culturally, publicly, and privately can be summed up in one word.
REST. Just to BE. That’s it.
Makes most people twitchy just reading that, I bet. Doing more doesn’t work when we are riven with the stress of collective hurt, collective loss, collective anxiety. More meds, more trips, more shows, more content, more stuff—- doesn’t work either.
What does work is so simple, so accessible, and ridiculed in the face of a multiple billion dollar wellness industry. No app or membership needed. Could it be that I have this incredible tool— the union of movement/breath/intention— or in a shorter version: yoga— at my fingertips? Can this change my world?
What if it was easy? What if we do have the tools individually and collectively to heal? To feel peace, ease, resilience, even joy in a world of chaos? What if?
Can we rest in the possibility that this could be true?
So, dear friend, for everyone is a friend I don’t know yet— rub your palms together, get some heat going, fresh energy. With fingers warm, place the heels of your palms on your cheekbones, cupping your eyes, let your fingers gently rest on your head and temples. Go ahead, take a few minutes to feel the warmth of your own hands, breathe, and breathe again, I’ll be here when you get back.
There, you did it. You moved with intention, focused on the breath. That was yoga. Thousands of years ago, yogis experimented with the union of movement, breath and mind focus and discovered the true power to change our human experience. A pathway for ease, peace, hope, and joy, no matter what surrounds us.
Try another movement; bring your middle finger of each hand to just below your ear, in the groove between jawbone and neck muscles, just behind the earlobe, allowing your other fingers to rest along the neck and jaw. Notice any sensations of ease, release, or nothing. Just rest the mind on the sensations of your body, the breath. Breathe in and out a few times, then massage downward towards the collarbones a few times. Rest your hands just under the collarbones, top of the chest, one hand over the other. Let your chin rest on your hands and breathe. Maybe close your eyes.
How was it? Strange? Feel the need to hop up and DO something? Brain commanded you to GET BUSY? That right there is evidence of an overstressed nervous system. If a few moments of quiet, still, rest feels just the opposite; we are in a stress reaction fight/flight/freeze state. This is most of us these days, most of the time, and we are convincing ourselves this is normal. It isn’t. We deserve rest. It is time to demand rest, claim ways to heal, claim radical kindness for ourselves and each other.
Maybe try palming the face again, this time armed with the knowledge that I am more than my nervous system response. I can breathe through anxiety. Let it be there, not trying to ignore it, stuff it down, or pretend it’s not with me, but draw my anxious mind to the focus of the body breathing, the warmth of the hands, just this place of being. Not doing. Just for now.
Humans have been in an imposed cocoon for too long, it is time to stretch, time to expand, time to claim our wellness in body, mind and heart with truth. Say yes to everything we are experiencing; the loss, the love, the worry, the hope, the fear, the ease, all of it. And we don’t do it alone, we share our experience of our very real inward and outward lives, claiming our connection to each other, to grow in the resilience of being life—-together. The students in my yoga class today laughed as they wiggled into an awkward shape, and the room lightened. We forgave ourselves and forgot our pain in that moment. We claimed our humanity and our resilience grew.
The butterfly cannot fly if it doesn’t test the boundaries of its cocoon over and over, expanding in new ways with patience, fortitude and hope. By the time the Monarch butterfly emerges, it is resilient enough to fly through storms, more than 3,000 miles in the only butterfly migration on the planet. Then they do it again. We have the Monarch to remind us, resilience is our living birthright. It is ours to build, one loving, restful breath at a time.