Yesterday, I went to an actual yoga class with a friend for the first time since last winter. I practice at home routinely, but since I never known how I’m going to feel I usually abstain from taking in person classes. However, this class was a restorative one that is all about just relaxing in poses, recharging your batteries and letting not only your body rest, but your brain too! If you’ve read any of my posts on meditation you’ll know that letting my thoughts not get away from me is one of my biggest struggles. So I knew this class would be right up my alley!
There’s just something about all the energy in a class that really gets my vibrations going at a higher level and I do so much better without the distractions that practicing at home can bring. As soon as I walked in the studio I just felt my shoulders drop from my ears and I knew how badly I needed this. Yoga by Degrees always smells like the delicious mint soaked towels they lay on your forehead at the end of practice and every time I smell it I’m always brought back to the blissed out feeling I get in savasana. I’d never taken a restorative class before, but it ended up being like a therapy session with stretching. The teacher, Lara, guided us into poses and helped guide us into a meditative state as we stretched and I couldn’t have been happier.
Her biggest topic that evening was not only caring for your body, but caring for your mind as well. Meaning you can rest your body all you want, but unless you let the steady stream of thoughts hounding your brain let up for a little while, you aren’t giving your mind the rest it needs. Guilty! When you let your brain just be for a little while you can live your life instead of occupying the past or the future. You notice the smell of flowers in the air, the way your significant other’s eyes light up when they smile or how good it feels to snuggle with your pup. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to miss out on those things because I’m too busy thinking of what’s next on my to-do list!
All through class I’d find my brain relaxing and just noticing small sensations and then it would just light back up again with blog ideas or what I still needed to do that evening. It got me to thinking about why I’ve always had such a hard time letting my body and mind relax. The answer is….I’m not perfect. I often find myself trying too hard to do something flawlessly and then my inner critic comes out nitpicking everything I’ve done until I’m frustrated as all get out. The thing about meditation or any form of it is that you’ll never really be perfect. There will still be moments when thoughts creep in. It’s the act of learning how to let those thoughts float away that allows you to become better at mindfulness that you can apply to your daily life. Personally, it’s difficult for me not to be doing something that I consider productive and laying around stretching doesn’t seem like the most productive thing. In my head I kept getting thoughts about what I should be doing. These little thoughts about what you should be doing or what kind of person you should be are damaging and dangerous. They prevent you from actually just being you and living in the moment. Every time those thoughts cropped up I told myself that I’m exactly where I need to be and that I’m useless to anyone if I don’t care for myself first.
Another aspect I really loved about the class was how much they pushed using tools like blocks, blankets and straps. When I first started yoga I thought that using tools was a cop out and that you needed to keep working at what you were doing to just get better at it. I was obviously totally missing the point of yoga, but I was a young, little freshman who was bent on setting the world on fire. There was no arguing with me. Now, I’ve done a complete 180. Give me all the tools! Tools help you reach deeper into poses that you couldn’t get on your own and using blankets or blocks to rest into poses allow you to reset your body. My flexibility has grown hugely since I incorporated tools into my routine.
The $25 dollars for this class was well spent because I learned a big truth while sitting around listening to the teacher, stretching and being at peace in my body and mind. I learned that ego has no place in yoga or your life. Being confident is one thing, but I struggle constantly with wanting to be the best I can be at whatever I’m doing and honestly it’s exhausting. I want to live my life! When I let go of my ego in the class I felt a deep sense of wellbeing and calm that I hadn’t felt since my vacation. Resting while using the blanket underneath my back gave me one of the best stretches I’ve had in forever and I could feel my hips open up and breath become more even and relaxed. I wasn’t looking at others and asking myself “why can’t I bend like that?” or saying “You aren’t doing this pose as well as you used to. You’re letting yourself slack”. I was completely in the moment and when you’re in the moment miracles can happen and healing can take place. I can’t wait to take what I’ve learned into my everyday life!
It’s amazing what you can realize when you’re in the moment. Lesson learned, universe!