I loved yoga and I loved stretching, but i never understood it until today. About 3 years into my yoga practice I had a teacher that finally got me to viscerally understand elongating and stretching on the inhale and releasing and collapsing on the exhale. It absolutely changed my practice, made it deeper and more fun. kept me at the edge but not beyond it. But still it brought some struggle, some lapse in capability or desire to do a more perfect version of the posture. Sadly, usually there was judgment. positive or negative, but a semi-constant barrage of it, like joan rivers on a red carpet.
yoga’s been off my list for a while now, and tai chi hasn’t afforded me the physical adeptness to facilitate mental wandering – ha, that’s just what i’m telling myself. as i consider it, i have plenty of the inner commentator – although now with this qi gong, i’m feeling more successful just feeling into it instead of “trying to do it”
I haven’t been able to touch my toes in a long time, it simply wasn’t available with the hip shape. A couple of days ago, I put into my morning PT a 25 breath standing forward fold morning and night, and 6 minutes of hamstring stretch between the two legs and together. What a difference 80 or so hours makes, with just a couple of minutes of gentle, gentle stretches 2x per day. I think I probably just crossed 1 collective hour, but i’m about 5 inches closer to the floor than I started, or at the end of the first day. And in those first 50 or so minutes, the stretch hurt. it was an uncomfortable place to hold. no wonder people don’t exercise, this sucks. And when i would actually release and relax my head in standing forward bend, YIKES! Why would I relax my head if it feels this bad? Oh, because the tension hurts worse, I just have it turned “off” (so i don’t sense what it’s making me avoid, and where it is forced to express itself as headaches or other inflammation).
So crossing this threshold has brought me just a fraction of a caliber of energy shy of “pain” and really into relaxed stretch. What a difference. Instead of the stretching be a few moments of my routine of mini-terror, which getting to my edge has always been (because in my anxious attachment style i’d always try just a smidge too hard) it really is a moment or 10 in relaxation. It’s like I raised my meditation time exponentially – and my meditation *experience* of relaxation and being. in. my. body. and gently. relaxed. Letting the cells release the tension they needlessly carry around. Setting a baseline of stillness and wholeness that can support fearlessness and trust in the face of movement (without the “preparing for battle” dynamic I think i’ve tended to wrap it up in).
About a year ago I knew I wanted to be talking about slowing down, waking up, god, life and love because i need to be talking about them, keeping them active and real in my life. This evolution of my relationship to my body and relaxing has been very rewarding here in retrospect. I’m certainly in a different place (i hadn’t even considered surgery and wouldn’t have quickly) and i have much more available to me. As I turn my attention to “relaxing into” what is available to me instead of trying to harness and exploit it, the happier I feel, literally.
And there’s the rub. i kept trying to use my mind and tension to create the conditions that might finally create a feeling of wellness when it’s really FEELing, not a mental process at all. a physical process. and a physical process that frees the mental process to be responsive and creative instead of predicting, trying to control, and judging. And a certain amount of time spent feeling and evenutally it dawns on you that relaxing is really the best play here. and once the relaxing takes hold, watch out! relaxing really does create time for itself. Like with the ‘every breath counts’ my philosophy is that if you commit to 1 deep intentional breath per day, it will bring friends. it will draw more of itself onto itself. and so far it’s really been true in my practice. in so many ways, but today in 25 breaths, 2x per day, right after brushing my teeth. It’s the kind of stuff I never would have made time for without the luxury of this period after the surgery and the active job of developing practices that support the body and wellness.