The morning I drove to yoga filled with uneasiness about the lingering sciatic pain, I entered the rooms just as the meditation was beginning. With no time to roll out my mat, or get flustered by my late arrival, I dropped my rolled up mat down beside me, tucked my folded up towel under my sit bones, my light tee shirt beneath the bony prominences of my ankles, and got down to business.
Thankfully, the meditation was simple: close your eyes, breathe, and watch how your body responds. How simple it that?
By the time the meditation was over, my uncertainty about the morning yoga practice was gone. No longer feeling like I might need a quick escape (not that I would ever walk out of class in the middle), I moved my mat away from the doorway and to the front of the room beside Roz, a dear yogi friend.
The instruction to close our eyes, breathe, and watch our body’s response, flowed right on into the class that followed. By this, I mean that we were instructed to keep our eyes closed for the entire 90 minute class.
With out eyes closed tightly, our awareness was heightened as we flowed with our breath and observed our bodies (free from the normal visual distraction and cues). Sort of an eyes wide shut kind of thing. From child’s pose, to down dog, to plank, upward dog, mountain pose, standing forward bend, warrior one, warrior two, triangle, half-moon, crow, headstand, and so on…we flowed and observed. It was fascinating.
This exercise, or class, was a lesson in awareness, trust, as well as one of self discovery. I was surprised at the normally-easy poses which were fought with imbalance and uncertainty. Even more surprising, was my revelation that many of the normally-challenging poses, came with greater ease. One of the constant challenges was checking in on my placement in the room. With my eyes closed, I became acutely aware of the sunlight from the windows, the sounds of the yogis around me, and the voices coming from the lobby. These were the tools at my disposal that served to orient me in space. Additionally, I often reached down to feel for the edges of my mat in order to reorient myself and verify that I was where I needed to be. One time, when I’d gotten myself rotated diagonally on my mat, I was assisted back to face the front of the room.
Thankfully, I knew the names of the poses themselves, for the most part, even when given in Sanskrit. I was able to follow along – except once after falling off balance trying to perform the simplest of pose transitions, I completely lost my composure. What was that? Utkatasana? Or was that Tadasana? Do I stand up tall or forward bend? I couldn’t look around to check my understanding and couldn’t hear any of the other yogis making sounds in the direction of up OR down. But I could only hear the instructor walking past in front of me as I indecisively reached for my toes then back upright. “THIS?” I asked as she walked past. “Yes,” she whispered. I smiled. And I was sure that I could see her smiling back through my closed eyes.
Time flew past, and soon we were all lying on our backs in savasana. It was odd not to have to close our eyes upon arriving there. As we fell off into a deeper state, the instructor read a passage on breaking patterns to create change rather than getting stuck in the same ol’ stuff. There was more to it than that… but the “getting stuck” part struck a chord which had me spiraling off in the wrong direction. I somehow broke free from the undertow and returned my focus to my breathing. In and out. I just focused on my breathing and tried to simply observe.