*Since one of my Core Desired Feelings was to be “Open-Hearted” this year, it seems only fitting that the photo credit is from “Poses to Open Your Heart”
After intentionally avoiding yoga for the last 12 years, I finally caved and allowed myself to be swallowed whole by a class last week. If you read my January blog, you’ll remember that I am one of those who are fueled by an inner voice relentlessly chanting, “Go-Go-Go” and “harder, faster, more!” So yoga, for me, has always represented a tranquility and surrender that, well, quite frankly, frightens the shivasana out of me. I’ve lumped yoga into the same category as sipping herbal tea and going without makeup in public. Something about all of that acceptance frightens me. Please don’t judge.
As a working mom, I pride myself on my ability to strategically wring the most out of every precious hour. I lean toward activities like Spinning or CrossFit, “real workouts” that require speed and allow me to believe I’m getting the best ROI for my time. With a simplistic mentality based on calculations of calories burned per minute or miles traveled per hour, who has time for yoga?
But alas! Chronic overthinkers like me tend to ignore the wisdom of the body, and we miss out on some important information. I suspect my body has been trying to send me some messages. My back problems have signaled that CrossFit - while so deeply awesome - is not a good fit for my spine (at least not now). My recent Whole30 experiment has reminded me that slowing down is not necessarily giving up; sometimes it’s actually about becoming more intentional. Instead of wooing and honoring my body, I’ve been out to conquer it, and I don’t need a yogini to tell me that’s not a loving path.
So I finally showed up to a yoga class, planted my bare toes in the squishy mat, and started relaxing into the poses. A few minutes into it, after several calming instructions, the instructor quietly said, “Just let your head drop.” Such an innocent request, but her words ricocheted through me like a bolt of electricity. It was a straightforward and simple idea; she was simply asking me to let the weight of my head succumb to gravity in the movement. I’m not practiced enough to remember the name of the pose, but I was somehow quite upside down. “Just let your head drop.” She said it again. Ooooh, it resonated through every cell in my body. Let my head drop? Even as I had been positioning my body to relax, my mind had been racing, and that moment allowed me to see that, holy cow, yoga is profoundly metaphorical! Learning to let my head drop in yoga would also coax my mind to relax. Let my head drop in the pose, yes; but also:
Drop the reasons
Drop the striving
Drop the analysis
Drop the planning
Everything will be there waiting for me when I’m rested, but I’ll see it with fresh eyes. As I hung in my inverted position, I recalled a quote: “Don’t let your mind bully your body into believing it must carry the burden of its worries” (A. Alauda). Yes, let your head drop indeed … and breathe.
My slow return to yoga has been a gentle one, and I’m reminded that many people come to yoga for the stretch, but leave with a lot more (not unlike coaching). Also, as it turns out, yoga’s emphasis on the Breath is shockingly effective and soothing, even after class ends. These days, I’m choosing to breathe in the profound and beautiful truth that sometimes being strong means knowing when to rest.
*Disclaimer - This idea about letting our heads drop isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. I’ve written a personal reflection on a message I needed to hear during a particular time. Those of us who get stuck in our cranium caves know who we are. Just this week, I’ve had several intense interactions with key creative people in my life who were experiencing mini-manic episodes. I was honored to walk with them through their storms, but as I listened to them, I was reminded that not everybody needs to let his/her head drop. Some people need quite the opposite! The strategies for those creative souls may be a blog for another day … and written by another author!