I can touch my toes!

Since I’ve been in Hong Kong I have been a member of Pure Yoga and go four or five times each week. I realise I have nearly been doing this for two years.  The tiny central flat combined with weather thats almost always too hot, too rainy and possibly too polluted makes exercising in a beautiful indoor space really appealing. The cost of membership means that if I am going to pay up I really want to use it and I find that once I’ve scheduled a class I want to make it, rather than tell myself I should go at some point in the future.

The same picture of a flower under different colours.
Practicing the same steps but being sensitive to a difference each time.

I also appreciate that doing a similar sequence of stretches, weight bearing movements and relaxation exercises means that it is possible to compare progress as you go. This means that when you practice regularly  you have opportunities to realise that you can stretch a little further, hold a little more of your own weight and move with a bit more ease which is really encouraging. And now I notice that for the first time since my childhood I can touch my own toes with straight legs, no warm up or anything.  Like the first time I could move into an imperfect ‘wheel’ pose it is a little marker that putting in the effort, showing up five times a week for a class has an impact.  It is also wonderful to feel more strength in the body, I ‘feel’ my bones are denser, I feel my body is easier.  When I stop for a few days a tightness returns to my hips and a longing in my shoulders to be free. Still I think there is more.

Completing a very ‘strict’ practice such as a hot sequence with as few moves as possible in the company of others invites me to show up with more mindfulness and more trust in what my body is capable of than I would ordinarily get. Moving in sync with other people and with your own breath seems to massage the mind.  It gives a feeling of silent camaraderie. I love the poise and exactness we are invited to make our own and the precision when we move a foot or arm just a little differently to feel openness or lightness. I am not someone who finds dance, choreography, moving in the body so easy and have developed a capacity to transform auditory information into mechanical movement. When I do this I need to pause the chatter in my head to listen to my outer experience of hearing the instructor and my inner experience of ‘does that seem to be right’. I notice how tired my body is in a Yin practice, how unstable I am when I balance (or not) and take time for the glorious feeling of having a healthy and strong body to come in to my mental experience and invite my mind to have those qualities too.

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