I’ve done yoga every day this month. Twenty-three mornings in a a row. I finish my coffee, pull up Yoga with Adriene on the laptop, and plop down on my living room floor. I don’t have a yoga mat, because the only places in my tiny apartment without carpet are the tiny kitchen and the tiny bathroom. I don’t own yoga blocks or yoga blankets or yoga pants. I’m not a pro, or even well-versed. I have no idea what the Sanskrit words mean, and I regularly wonder if this white-lady-led YouTube channel is endorsing cultural appropriation.
But for twenty-three days in a row, I have sunk out of my head and into my body and it feels luxurious. Adriene uses words like “yummy” and “nourishing” and despite my resistance, I find myself thinking of yoga in those ways. “Oh, I get to forget about my hamster wheel monkey mind for this half hour and experience my body and breath, instead.” I look forward to those moments of moving and breathing and stretching.
I’ve known for a long time that I live too much in my head and not enough in my body, but recent years learning about what it means to be an Enneagram 5 and the ways that my own internalized white supremacy fences me off from bodily intelligence have underscored the power and necessity of being in my body.
It’s weird to think about, and weird to write about because, well, that’s the point: to receive knowledge and wisdom that resists articulation and intellectual codification. I have trouble explaining what’s happening on the mat and for a long time, that bothered me. But this go-round, this month of daily sinking into the criks in my neck and the tightness in my hip, this process of recognizing which vertebrae tend to collapse and how my left ankle is tighter than my right one, this regular invitation to just BE IN MY BODY without explaining or critiquing or analyzing it…it has been a gift.
The other day’s practice was a breath meditation, a “pranayama potion.” Adriene led us through breathing exercises, controlling our inhale and our exhale, moving deeper and deeper into carefully modulated cycles. It was HARD. My breath has not been trained in those ways. The twenty minutes of breathing took every ounce of focus and concentration I could muster. And at the end, when she instructed us to “bat the eyelashes open” and return to a normal cycle of breath, I emerged from the meditation in a state of awe. “WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED TO ME?” I said, out loud. Franny didn’t even stir from her morning nap.
Sometimes (when the world allows), I lead sessions on Spiritual Practices with BVS volunteers. We go outside and pay attention to light and sound and texture and perspective. We try out the Jesuit Examen and Lectio Divina. These are all spiritual practices, I tell them, and they are all universally available. Wherever you are, whatever your mood, however many stressors or traumas are unfolding around you, you always have access to these small, powerful practices. Notice the light. Touch some tree bark. Walk through each moment of the day thus far. Listen for a word or phrase that strikes you differently than all the rest. Take a deep breath.
Doing yoga this month reminds me that the most powerful spiritual practices are free and universally available. We don’t need subscription services or fancy outfits to tune in to our breath and our bodies. We don’t need tropical meditation retreats or specially crafted worship services to reconnect with the One who created and sustains us. Having a companion is often a good idea – whether it’s the yoga instructor on the screen, the pastor leading the prayer, or a friend by your side. But the world is constantly available to us. Our attention is ours to spend as we choose: binging Bridgerton or lying still in savasana, listening to our deepening breath and giving thanks for these bodies, fearfully and wonderfully made.