February 15, 2010

Release With A Sigh

My eyes are closed. I’m concentrating on my breath. Not 15 minutes ago, I was running about in a bustling noisy workplace. I’m about to turn my day around.

“Take a tall, dignified seat. Push your sitting bones against the Earth and feel it support you. Lift your heart and push the crown of your head to the Sky.” Her gentle voice echoes softly in the silent room. Kelly, my yoga teacher, is about to work her magic. Again.

When I started yoga, back in November, I must have been the most unconvinced student to ever enter the studio. I’m all about hard training and physical effort at the threshold of suffering and I have high aims for the coming summer... Do I really have time for this?

I would be hard pressed to take any credit for attending a yoga class. This is actually part of a much broader voyage of the soul that started some years back with a friendship very dear to me. She knows who she is :)

Having successfully dragged my sorry ass into meditation – I will never thank her enough for that – I guess it was only natural she would eventually convince me to try yoga.

I wanted to take Jiu-Jitsu...

“Take a deep breath. Release with a sigh.” A wave of exhaling sounds fills the room, and as I do it myself, I get the impression I’m taking the first real breath of my day. Kelly’s soft voice guides us into a mindful introspection. “Dive inside and scan your body. Notice any part that needs extra loving care. Do this with kindness.”

What I feared would be a gimmicky stretching class disguised as a body-and-soul experience for bio-tofu enthusiasts turned out to be a fantastic discovery. Kelly’s Kripalu method combines strength training, flexibility and presence of the mind, organized in such a way that it’s challenging, soothing and rewarding all at once.

As the class goes through the series of poses, she walks around and patiently corrects postures, adapting her approach to the specifics of everyone. “If it’s available, explore deepening the stretch.” Her mindful attention is never intrusive, her comments always uplifting. She’s a teacher, in the real sense of the term.

"Breathe your thoughts out. Let them flow away, into nothingness." As the class closes its end, we’re invited to rest, and eventually to come back to the tall seating position we’ve opened the session with. “May all beings live in peace and happiness.” She bows, thanks everyone, invites them to do the same, smiles. And as she does, a new day begins.

Since I met Kelly, I have not only dramatically improved my running performance, my body strength and my flexibility; I can now root my soul into the Earth and stretch it to the Sky.

Namaste, Kelly McGrath.

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