Sustain.Body

Hot Yoga Session 6: A Lion and a Swallow

This was originally posted in January 2012 to document my 30 days of hot yoga. I was recently inspired to be more self-reflective after a terrible flu season which sent me to the ER twice. Doctor’s orders were simple: start taking care of yourself (again) or you’ll need surgery. Well, that’s all I needed to propel me into living a healthier, more personally sustainable life amidst balancing a busy career, volunteering, and figuring things out with our new baby.

Join me here, on Sundays, where I re-blog reflections from 30 days of hot yoga and hopefully inspire you to embrace change positively with passion and find opportunities for personal growth wherever you can find it.

During today’s class our instructor mentioned that inside all of us there are two energies – a fierce, unyielding power (lion) and a nurturing, graceful peace (swallow). I think we can all agree that over the course of a day, a year, a lifetime, we experience both energies. Sometimes we are unyielding lions. Sometimes we are peaceful swallows.

If you were to ask any of my coworkers, college friends, or volunteer contacts, they will all tell you: in the choice between lion and swallow, I am unquestionably a lion.

A lion is not a bad thing. Tapping the fierce power that is within yourself is something we could all use from time to time. I have a wonderful heart. I have good intentions. And I have tender moments. But if you want something done, and if you want to do it well, I am exactly the person that you would want to help you.

In the last few days, however, I have found myself so at peace with the world. I feel like I’m lightly floating from one thing to another. Nothing bothers me. Everything is just as it is. And this got me thinking… after 30 days of yoga, am I going to become a swallow?

Hello, minor identity crisis.

We all know people that are classic swallows. The super nice, never worked up, always finding something positive in the worst situation, gives a sense of peace and comfort, the one no one would ever challenge, the person that everyone trusts.

When I initially sought out this experience, I did expect physical changes, and did hope for a greater inner strength. But a total shift in identity? Woah. Let’s take it easy, here!

Still, I can’t help feeling unmistakably… different. changed. grown. wise.

Checking in.

Tadasana. Photo courtesy of Yogajournal.com

Physically, I change every day. In today’s practice I still needed to take occasional breaks, but my abs are stronger, my arms are more defined, and I feel taller. [I honestly feel like I’ve grown an inch. When I walk, my body is more upright. When I stand, it’s with a surprising presence.]

And so today it seems only appropriate to focus on the tallest of all poses, mountain pose. It’s a pose that is often taken for granted. After all, we have been standing most of our lives, so how hard could it be?  My instructor walked us through this today and I can tell you, it’s not.

You can read all about how to do it in this article on Tadasana at yogajournal.com.

Just as with most poses, there are many ways you can approach this posture. But today we focused on finding unity in opposition (a theme I happen to love, both for the physical component and for the symbolism). We worked on flexibility, finding length and space through alignment. We engaged our legs, arms, and shoulders, and relaxed our faces, eyes, and bellies.

Lesson.

And perhaps the lesson which resonates most with me is that each day, each practice is different. Sometimes you are a lion of strength and power. And sometimes you focus on breathing, on finding depth and space in places where you didn’t have it before, on peace, on quiet. It’s the combination of the two – strength and flexibility, fierce and nurturing, yin and yang – that makes us whole.

We have good days and bad days. By understanding that we must experience one to understand the other we can find peace. And that, dear friends, is beautiful.