Self-Practice: Breakthroughs and Breathing


This post is part of a series about the realities, the challenges and the joys of self practice. For more posts in this series, click here. The first iteration of this particular piece appeared on Instagram.

I brushed my toes in pigeon for the first time in over a decade of yoga today. And then the real practice began.

Don’t be misled, there is so much more going on here than can be captured by a shape or a photo. Getting caught up in our story of what it took to arrive at this moment robs us of the richness of our experience. My mind leapt straight into excited thoughts, then story, congratulations even – and I leapt with it, abandoning my body right here in this shape. It was a challenge to draw my self away from intellectualizing and back to sensing. I labeled my thoughts – “thinking”, and after a few attempts, returned my attention to the conversation happening in my body; listening, adjusting, sensation, and breath. What does excitement feel like? Can I experience this feeling rather than jumping to narrate? And, importantly in this new physical space, am I actually safe here? Yes? Ok then. How is that sensitive sacrum, cranky psoas? And oh, am I breathing? No? Excitement and anxiety are similar in my body, it seems. Exhale, soften, draw in, support. Inhale, lift and expand, retaining connection to that support. Is there ease to be found here, and what supports that buoyant quality? Can I experience the emotion while actively working my body?

I am human, for sure I am, and I have never yet met someone who could completely detach from excitement at breaking through a limitation, real or perceived; physical, mental or otherwise. I could not achieve it here. Progress is important to recognize, whatever shape it takes, but practice and presence are my foundations.

I’m grateful for what my practice has taught me: Our felt experience is not found in the words we use to describe it, no matter how we may try. And oh, I do try. In some moments though, I understand that narrating is not living. Joy is a feeling, not a thought. When excitement fades or I disappoint myself, when I get caught by my humanness, behave rashly, and allow myself to get carried off into some old story in my mind, I always have a direct route back into relationship with this moment, I always have a safe haven here in my body. As long as I am breathing, I can find my way back home.

2 comments on “Self-Practice: Breakthroughs and Breathing

  1. I’ve read this several times and the powerful words and image speak to me…and yet I can’t fully understand in what way. If that makes sense? When I saw the photo and read the first sentence, I felt so excited for you, knowing, before reading any further that this emotion from the reader may not really be what you were hoping for. But still…knowing more than the picture, more than the first line…knowing some of the back story, I couldn’t help but to laugh in joy at this accomplishment.

    And then I thought about the words. And how even with accomplishment, my mind criticizes and tries to sabotage my body. The other day, I ran for a longer duration than I have for years. NOT because I was finally physically capable of doing it…but because I was mentally ready to allow myself that progress. Or so I thought. Feelings of joy were soon replaced with self-criticism that it was a fluke and I wouldn’t be able to do it again. And i allowed it. I didn’t run again for a week. Perhaps that example misses your point…but in reading your words I realized that it’s all in the body and breath. They know what I can do and they are what I should be focusing on. The mind…it can deceive.

    You always make me think with your posts…and for that, I will always be grateful!

    1. Of course it makes sense :) I laughed in joy too – and oh, yes, your example speaks exactly to my point. It’s not even that the story of the progress or the history is bad, right? It’s that it CAN separate us from the actual experience, or keep us stuck, just as well as it can bolster us. Thanks for thinking and practicing with me!!!

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