Hearing the continual call of the offshore loon as it listens to is own echo from the woods is a true concert to my heart.
Watching my born blind cat Lucy (featured in a past article titled "Lucy lifted us up," and who has returned to us and is healed), sleeping on her back in utmost surrender, relaxation and trust.
Feeling and listening to the wind on a perfect summer day.
These are some of the things that move me most, even moved to tears at the right moment; these are the moments of contentment and bliss yogis seek.
What moves someone else can be quite different. My personal yoga quest was initiated and carried by a search for the meaning of life’s questions, not for the deepest backbend or strongest handstand. I believe for many it becomes a search for answers. For others, it is nothing of the sort. It may represent to them a way to move their bodies, to recognize and appreciate their bodies in a new way.
One woman my age reflects on how yoga has improved her relationship to her body, making her appreciate it more. Then she comments on herself in some photos taken and it is evident she does not totally yet accept herself or her body. Even though the current “in” yoga or teacher or performer can move our culture, we need to learn not to compare ourselves and compete. Just today some guests told me about practicing a very strong form of yoga and feeling they needed to aspire to be like the "well known" teacher, who said they must continue to practice amidst pain and who herself practices 3 hours every morning. Yoga is meant to be an individualized practice. Yet more and more we see people moving into injury because they push themselves to try to be like or keep up with others. Someone recently told me that Good Morning America featured a yoga teacher showing poses that most easily cause injury. Yoga has moved to the deep end of things if we need to show what hurts not helps us in yoga.
We need not think or even say things that move us apart or away from the gift that we are, the gifts we have been given and the gifts we have to share. We may not be the youngest, most flexible or strongest person in our yoga class yet if we are kind with ourselves and others, if we can aspire to nonattachment and contentment, we may be practicing yoga more deeply than the contortionist/gymnast next to us in yoga class.
I am moved by my breath, literally and figuratively, observing how much deeper, more complete and sustainable my breath is when I reside in the country than when I am in the city. I am moved by how full and alive I can feel in a “country” moment, listening to the loon or communing with the friendly woodchuck that a neighbor “got rid of.” Thoreau is getting more and more attention as the first American yogin in his attempts to spend long periods of meditation at Walden Pond.
I am moved by feelings of sadness in life, moments of anger when I feel I am wrongfully treated. I am also moved by the heat that overtakes my body after a fleeting moment of anxiety that precedes my menopausal hot flashes. Every moment of the day something is there to move us, our breath, our mind, which can take us to a whole other place or quickly punch a thought with its reverse—negative or positive. Recently reading a book on Abe Lincoln I am fascinated by his inner depths, his study of spiders making webs as he contemplates the words for the declaration of emancipation of the slaves. The stories that our guests tell around the dinner table also move me, honored that they share their stories of courage and compassion in their working with the oppressed around the world.
To know what moves you ask yourself: What would I miss most? What matters most to me?
My quest into yoga has not resulted in finding all the answers I had hoped for. It has given me a journey and a foundation to observe and work with the changes in my mind, my body and my thoughts and circumstances in a way that may give me more peace and understanding.
Yoga is a way to move our bodies in ways we never knew they could. From here we may move into our breath and mind in ways we never knew we could. We move into the breath more consciously so that our breath becomes more healing and we move into our mind in a way to better observe it and its subtleties and what impacts it.
As yoga practice evolves we often move into a deeper relationship with the planet and the beings on the planet. You might find yourself asking questions like:
How do I treat my body?
What words do I use to speak about and to others and myself?
Do I take time to “just be” with my mind on a regular basis?
How do I handle my differences with others?
How do I treat and think of animals and other living beings?
Time moves us, circumstances move us, yet our yoga practice helps us move into our inner depths and find that place of constancy and calm amidst the movements from the outside that might otherwise disturb us. Silence and stillness are often considered the optimum for moving into a calm mind and ease in our body. Perhaps we can take the sounds, people or other things that irritate us and use the challenges to move us to another level in ourselves—toward the real inner awakening.
What moved you most today? If we can answer this every day then we can hope to live our time on earth from our heart and move toward yogin's goal of Self-Realization.
Here is a yogic breath to help decrease anxiety and calm the mind:
(If you cannot do the ratio specified choose one that works for you. Make sure the 3 parts are the same length.)
Sit straight in a chair or cross-legged on the floor
Inhale slowly for 20 counts, hold the breath in for 20 counts without tensing the body, exhale for 20 counts. (If 20 does not work, try 10-10-10 or 12-12-12 etc).
Try for 3 or 5 minutes, build up to 11 or even 31 minutes.
Donna Amrita Davidge owns and operates www.sewallhouse.com retreat in Island Falls, Maine with her husband Kent Bonham and also teaches in the slower season in NY City. Small, personalized yoga retreats and classes are offered, with 25 years teaching experience.
Donna and Kent invite you to their third yoga and walking retreat in Umbria Italy
October 22-29, 2011/deposits due December 31, 2010.
Please see brochure at http://www.sewallhouse.com/Donna%20&%20Kent%20Umbria,%20Italy.pdf if you would like to join us