As an independent, traveling yoga teacher, who spends a titch too much time on social media noticing all the events and workshops and retreats other yoga teachers offer, I put stress on myself by feeling the need to offer workshops and events in addition to the classes I teach. I do enjoy offering these events around seasons, particularly full moon and solstice times. But even though I enjoy it, the stress of creation and offering, marketing, and registering all are stressful. I am a one woman show. And yes, I am a yoga teacher that deals with seasonal depression, anxiety, social comparison, panic attacks and eating too many Christmas cookies.
I am a pretty effective teacher anyway. And also, because of my own failings and neuroses. I want so much to reach those that aren’t ‘yogis’, just regular people with aches and pains, willing and wanting to love themselves just as they are. And hope for a little more ease in mind, heart and body.
So I will take my own advice and take an even breath, pursing my lips on the exhale, like my exhale is flickering a candle flame. Rest for a moment, then turn my attention to this workshop I am really excited to offer.
As I think through my upcoming winter solstice workshop, I wonder; will my event be ‘spiritual enough’, but also not too ‘woo-woo’? I know too much woo-woo when I hear it— I have been to a yoga class when the teacher’s high lilting voice with a dreamy but possibly forced calm echoes around the room while she paces the yoga studio, and makes some impossible hypothetical suggestion like, “Now free the heart, really open, feel it float above you….breathe it up and away.”
I peek around the room, and others are lying there, hands on their hearts, faces calm. Am I the only one concerned that my heart might float away? Don’t I need my heart?
Back in my own room, I tap my fingers on my thigh. I am staring at my screen, my iPad in my lap. I want to create this experience that will honestly hold whatever is with us, an honoring of all that is real. Not forced calm, not trying to avoid the reality of aches and pains, not pretending that we can assume the pose and all negative energy or plain discomfort will just evaporate and float away. Or that a floating, open heart is really the goal.
The word solstice —sol-, the sun, -stice, still. The still point of the sun; a moment of turning. A pause between dark and light. No action needed, just being in the moment. Easy to say, hard to do.
I have heard students say a focus on a deep sustained breath is triggering to them, causing weight in the chest, possibly causing stress that moves into panic attacks. I’ve heard that hands on the chest is also triggering, a holding down that is reminiscent of traumatic events. I know these things, so it is so important to me to honor what is with us, invite a sense of support in the way that works today. When we are feeling churned up, to the brim with stress, worries, trauma, maybe we don’t need action, a deep breath or pressure— which can inspire judgement, blame, or shame.
Maybe what our deep soul lights are asking for is a focus on the pause. The space between.
What if all the healing happens in the pause, where we tune in to our earthling nature and just listen to the rhythms of blood and breath, with the tides and winds of earth and sky, with our own sweet animal selves. The pause to resonate, reverberate, and fully express, just be ourselves with all of what we are; and inviting a connection of who we are in relation to the Earth, the cosmos, life, and each other.
French composer Claude Debussy said, “Music is the space between the notes.”
To hear our soul’s music is to pause, to sit with, be with, feel the breath, and the spaces between the breath. Can I feel my own music? I cross my hands in front of my chest, interlocking my thumbs like a bird taking flight. I rest my thumbs against my sternum, center of my chest, my fingers resting at my armpits and upper chest. A few breaths, simple and even as I lift my chin on the inhale, drop my chin towards my chest on the exhale. I press in fingers on the left, then gently on the right, seesawing back and forth as my breath rises and falls. Then I rest my chin to chest, take a few breaths, focusing on my heart. I offer love and light to my own sweet heart. I imagine that light flowing out and down to my toes, and up through the crown of my head, and now, I feel the pause. I feel the light.
I get out of bed, take a shower, get dressed in my baggy sweats and head to my meditation cushion, and my yoga mat, just as the sun rises over the mountains.