Monday, January 28, 2013
"Nice," she whispers.
One more deep breath, and she presses my torso lower. I feel a slight resistance - a brief unwillingness - behind my knees, but as I exhale the tension releases and she presses me lower.
"Navel to your back, engage your core, keep breathing, listen to your body," says the head yoga instructor. Her voice is like smooth honey, loving but firm, encouraging and compassionate.
Slowly, with a final whisper of encouragement - good - she removes her hands from my back. Incredibly, my body stays in this position on its own. I am folded in half, legs out in front of me, my face resting on my knees, hands wrapped around the soles of my feet.
It feels heavenly.
I'm at a yoga workshop, a two hour instructional class where several instructors tend to a handful of students. They tiptoe around the room, adjust poses, whisper encouragement, give massages to quivering muscles.
Finally, I find myself irrevocably drawn to something good for me: yoga. I'm still very much a novice, and I attended this class with a friend because I wanted the corrections, the instruction, so I didn't develop bad habits early.
I didn't expect it to be so comforting, though, a combination of pleasant aching and release of tension. All yoga classes are like that, but with the individual attention, the massages, and the comforting touches this class takes it to a whole new level.
"Keep listening to your body," she repeats. "Find that spot just at the edge of comfort, but no further, and breathe into the pose".
My mind drifts inward, taking silent stock of how my body feels. I feel my heart beat steadily against my upper thighs, my breath hot on my knees as I exhale and stretch down further. Every cell is humming with life and I feel connected, whole, present.
A while later, during Shavasana, I lie still, my body a dead weight sinking into the floor. I focus on my breath and feel life rushing in and out of my lungs, through my veins.
I listen to my body, grateful for its sturdy health. A year ago at this time I was heading into the worst of my cancer treatment. Radiation had scorched my neck - inside and out - the skin cracked and bleeding. Chemotherapy left me depleted, weary, sick. I lay in my bed and fought to stay in the moment.
A healthy body seemed a long, long way away.
My muscles throb gratefully, and I'm amazed at what they can do. She says to listen to my body, but for the moment I talk to it, send it a little prayer: thank you.
My mind quiets, and I am at peace.