Practicing yoga is meditation in slow motion, an intersection of mind, heart, and body, a flow of energy.
It is not a race.
Each of our poses is a journey, and we make these journeys with small steps that remind us to slow down and notice the world around us.
The moment that I arrive at the yoga center and step onto my mat, I can feel myself slowing down.
I begin to notice how my breath deepens, how the space between the beats of my heart expands.
As I prepare for class, I can see everyone else slowing down, too.
We chat with each other as we unfold our mats, greet one another as we find blocks, blankets, belts, and take a few moments to find out how the person stretching beside us is doing this week.
Moments before entering class, I noticed drivers on the highway racing past each other while talking on cell phones and ignoring what was in front of them.
But in class, as I begin to warm up with Cat and Dog Tilts and move into a Plank Pose, then a Downward Dog Pose, I find myself noticing every small step that I need to take to move into the poses.
For Cat and Dog Tilts, I notice how I lower my hands and knees to the mat, then arch upward and breathe in before exhaling and lowering my spine.
For Plank Pose, I notice how I extend one leg straight behind me, then the other, and shift my weight to my hands with care to avoid straining my wrists.
For Downward Dog Pose, I notice how I lift my hips slowly into the air and spread my fingers for more stability, and I can feel my hamstrings and calves stretch toward the mat.
Within each pose, small steps, tiny adjustments, help with alignment, balance, and comfort.
A tilt of the head, a twist of the pelvis, a reminder from my teacher to press down an index finger more firmly into the mat.
These are the slow, small steps that we take in order to reach the next stage of the journey into the many poses awaiting us.
The pleasure of yoga for me–one of the many pleasures, I guess–is the chance to slow down and notice these small steps.
Thanks to our yoga practice and our teachers, we can become more aware of the many steps that each of us take to create our poses, our lives.
Journal Practice: The next time that you step onto the mat, try to notice the different steps that you take to move into a pose. What do you see? How can examining these steps help you refine your pose and become more aware of how you feel in any given pose?
Spend a few minutes on the mat exploring different poses. Pay special attention to the steps that you take to move into the pose and the steps you take out of it.
Then write for five minutes describing what you notice. Before you close your journal, ask yourself how becoming aware of these slow, small steps on the mat can translate into increasing awareness in your life off the mat.