Lacrosse and Yoga: Let me take this moment to give kudos to yoga for benefiting my lacrosse experience. When I started, I ran a 8:28 mile as a freshman. I've reduced that to the 7:40s as a senior. Never in my life, if someone would have asked me, "Lars, think you'll beat 7 minutes?" would I have pegged myself to do so. Last week, I broke out. 6:44 was my mile time. Why? First and foremost, I am learning how to breathe. If there are any readers out there, do yourself a favor and take a few deep breaths throughout the day. It's quite unbelievable how wonderful one can feel from simply doing just that. Secondly, I am more flexible, I've left this out until now, but remember how at the beginning of this I could barely snag my shins? Well in just about a month I have surpassed my shins, moved passed the toes, and have obtained a firm grip on my entire foot-all while sitting on the floor with a straight spine and a hinge at the waist. Finally, like I am learning to do in so many aspects of my life, I am able to just 'be' while doing lacrosse-whether that's running or goalkeeping. I don't think about beating past times or how I'll make it through the next lap, I just put one foot in front of the other.
Sometimes you just need a little sign that you're on the right track, am i right or am i right?
Some call me crazy, but I like to look for signs in my life that display an interconnectedness of life and humanity. It's kinda my check on myself that I'm on the right path... bare with me.
I've always had a strong connection to the number 36. So, if I see it in a temperature, a clock, an-email received time, I often smile. I look for connections in that moment. 36 is the time I was born, it was my grandfather's college football number, it is check number I wrote to pay for my first tuition payment at ODU, and so on, and so on.
I also look for interrelated conversation. Sometimes it's different people mentioning the same concept within a small time span, you know, its almost eerie. Sometimes it's a certain song on the radio or a call from someone I was just thinking about. I hope you know what I'm talking about... it's that feeling that usually accompanies, "Huh, how ironic..."
This next one really tripped me up, though. To set the scene, I was just about to go to bed, but had decided to do some reading. I was leafing through Tolle's Stillness Speaks and I quickly became engulfed by the literature. Page after page kept blowing my mind. I came across a standout passage. It blew me away so much that just after reading it I closed the book and thought to myself: I want to remember this for the rest of my life.
The passage: "When you lose touch with inner stillness, you lose touch with yourself. When you lose touch with yourself, you lose yourself in the world. Your innermost sense of self, of who you are, is inseparable from stillness. This is the I Am that is deeper than name and form."
On that final note, I went to bed.
The next morning at yoga, I was floored to hear in final savasana (the laying down relaxation pose) that the very passage I was so passionate about the night before was being read aloud by the instructor.
I almost chuckled right there. How's that for a sign?
There is a deep power in that frustration and anxiety are less. There is power in feeling connected, aligned, and rooted to my inner strength.
Eckart Tolle writes: "Your life has an inner purpose and an outer purpose. Inner purpose concerns Being and is primary. Outer purpose concerns doing and it is secondary. Your inner purpose is to awaken. It is as simple as that. You share that purpose with every other person on the planet - because it is the purpose of humanity. Your inner purpose is an essential part of the purpose of the whole, the universe and its emerging intelligence. Your outer purpose can change over time. It varies greatly from person to person. Finding and living in alignment with the inner purpose is the foundation for fulfilling your outer purpose. It is the basis for true success."
How much does that simplify things? I already feel as though there is a renewal of my essence occurring. This is going to be really difficult to express verbally. as it's not so much mental as it is a feeling. I suppose I will try to explain it by what it is not... It is not the outside world. It is not pressures, relationships, work, school, sports, family, life, and death. It is a feeling. I lost that feeling in those distractions. I let myself become the incessant chatter in my head. For too long I let myself associate being with an idea in my head. I identified with certain things-a name, a cause, a sport, a girl, a job, a GPA, an idea...
I just am.
I certainly cannot tell you how empowering that recognition feels. As I start to feel this more predominately in my life my relationship with the outside world improves. My friendships are more real, my lacrosse is more fun-my play is better, my personal statements to jobs and schools are more genuine. In this rousing that is occurring I am becoming more comfortable with me.
To relate this back to the basis of this project-I do not know if I would have realized this without the influence of Yoga at this time and place in my life. There is the age old saying everything happens for a reason... more and more I'm starting to agree.
Lacrosse and Yoga are friends...
With that said, I am out on the lacrosse field and things are moving 100 miles a minute. It's a fact that I will get scored on. Last year I would get so angry, embarrassed, humiliated-and this year I accept it and ready myself for the next shot. It has changed my game in that in years prior I sometimes would miss the next shot simply because I was thinking too much about the last one. I'm starting to understand that I can slow it all down through breath and awareness. When a shot goes in, it goes in. Physically I understand that had I stepped to the ball or stayed on my arc, it would have been a save, but mentally I am starting to let the humiliation, defeat, and embarrassment go. I just take a deep breath and ready myself for the next one. I actually received a compliment from one of the referees this year. It was something to the effect, "You look really calm and in control this year. You're looking great." I didn't think she'd understand the response: Thank you, I think its cause I am working on living from a place of inner peace.
Life, graduation, and job apps are whirling chaotically about, but I accept that and therefore feel less threatened. I'm just taking it as it comes and readying myself for the next one.
Movement vs. Moment
Sometimes those instructors at Hot House Yoga have the unique ability to say something that resonates so deeply within me that my world is rocked...That is to say it strikes a chord of a truth I've always known but am only now beginning to feel. Knowing something and feeling something is as different as a rock and feather. It's the brain in movement versus the being in the moment. For example, the instructor reminded us that our intentions are usually best when they are formulated absent want or desire... So I've begun to move away from "Today I want to touch my toes," or "Today I want to feel aware the entire class," and am moving to things like, "I am grateful for this opportunity," and "I am grateful for the calm I feel throughout my day," or "I am grateful for a strong and able body," and "I am grateful for the new awareness and consciousness I feel." I'm starting to realize the limitations of living in the past or future and the freedom of the NOW. I'm beginning to realize the beauty of silence-rather, the importance of silence. A passage was read in during class today and I feel obligated to share it. In Stillness Speaks, Eckart Tolle writes:
Any disturbing noise can be as helpful as silence. How? By dropping your inner resistance to the noise, by allowing it to be as it is, this acceptance also takes you into that realm of inner peace that is stillness. Whenever you deeply accept this moment as it is-no matter what form it takes-you are still, you are at peace.
Jackpot. I remember last December discussing with a childhood friend the frustrations I felt because I didn't feel as though I was at peace like we were when we were kids. Part of me acknowledges that that's reality-that that's what happens when we grow up-but another huge part of me was asking why this was the case. Why when we get excited, is there less squeeling with excitement than before? Why do we always have to be doing something even when we're not doing something? Why are we always, always thinking in an obsessive manner? Maybe I'm projecting, maybe it's just me... but where have the listless and carefree energies of our youth gone? This is only my opinion, but I think it's because we live in a society where we our conditioned to go, go, go, think, think, think, look forward, look on, look ahead... Because of this most of us can only find peace in solitude; we can only find peace if we physically step away. I'm starting to realize now that I do not have to remove myself from a situation. Additionally, I do not have to stop thinking about the future entirely... I merely have to seek the inner peace within me an inner peace that is always within me. I just have to be aware of it, tap into it, and allow myself to feel it. I need to allow that inner peace to take over all the time... that is where I want to live my life from.
Yoga and its influence on writing...
Yoga has started to transcend all aspects of my life. I just finished a 12 page midterm without the insane sense of being overwhelmed quite simply because I decided to breathe deeply. As a writer, I've learned that I can breathe through a block. I just learned/ realized that the block is only a result of self-doubt. I get hung up because I start to think that I cannot do it. In the same vane, I can't let myself get carried away with "You can do it, Sara!" I just have to stick to the moment, write what is true to me, and trust that it is good. That's life, eh?
Pain is temporary...
I'm noticing, too, that in all my years of sport I've blocked out certain pains. Maybe its because I was too afraid to feel them, maybe its because I didn't have time to feel them. These are answers I will never know. However, yoga has helped to make me aware of them simply because my knotted muscles are stretching, lengthening, healing...
I'm in touch with these pains without feeling controlled or hindered by them. In this way, they then become merely something to accept and work with. Again, this is life. The lessons I learn in yoga are entirely applicable to life and 'BEING'. In life, like in sport, or class, or work there are certain aches and pains, but if you accept the pain, it already has less control-- I'm learning to work around it, work with it, and most importantly heal it...
I still struggle with a shoulder pain from a separation I had 6 years ago. In one of the poses (eagle) it involves intertwining your arms so that there is an extremely deep stretch across the back of your shoulder blades. Each time I do this I can feel the tension in my left shoulder release. It sounds so silly, but my increased range of motion is much appreciated. I also have a lot of trouble with my right knee. I don't really know what its all about, but the instructors tell me that hero pose will help this as it slowly rids the knees of scar tissue build up. Till then, I guess I have to work with listening to my body. It's amazing how yoga has helped me to process pain (in sport and life). They all seem so less limiting now. I think part of that is because I believe I am starting to heal.
No joke, when I get hit by a hard rubber ball that travels roughly 40-70 miles per hour, I can now breathe through the pain. This is essential for a goalie-- I am able to make the pain seriously temporary.
In yoga, I'm learning to send my breath. Areas of (sport and life) tension are starting to release because my breath, my energy, is traveling there. Sound too far fetched for you? Try it, you'll see.
I don't think that everyone has to think about yoga all day, but right now, it's almost as though I cant help it. Call it infatuation, call it addiction, call it what you will... I feel good, though. And that my friends, is an undeniable truth. I must say, I wish I could do a yoga bend with the best of them, but I am learning to feel happy at whatever point I am...How relavant is that to life? I get that I have to understand that it will come... not today, not tomorrow, but it will come. In the interim, where I am is where I am supposed to be.
Jimmy (the owner) was right, yoga does infiltrate your life. I'm doing this healthy thing, so I want to echo it with a healthier lifestyle.
For those of you who do not know me personally, I can out eat any human I know. I'm doing that less and less now. My portions are becoming more, well, proportionate. The ratio of food I consume balances with the energy I need. In addition, through yoga I'm learning to listen to my body more. I actually understand what it means to stop eating when you're full. Again, if you know me, you know this is a major breakthrough.
I also notice a difference in my anxiety levels (I have been diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder). The main contributor to this reduction in anxeity is (most presumably) breathing. Yoga has put me back into touch with deep, rhythmic breath. It's almost as though when lacrosse, school, or life stresses me out I can now go to a place, moreover a feeling-- a here and now, a present moment. I let my self feel connected to my being: strong and rooted, calm and empowered. I take myself to the feeling of mountain pose.
I want just be... all the time.
First you crawl, then you walk, and if youre lucky, you'll hit a full stride...
In only my third class, I realized that Yoga does have its ups and downs... not everything is awareness, being, and rose petals. I honestly think my body is feeling a soreness that can only be associated with adjusting. True, it could be in my head, but I feel as though my shoulders are shifting back and sliding down. My heart is raising and my posture is improving. I think, perhaps, there are certain aches and pains that accompany these adjustments and this is what I'm feeling. It's different than the pains I feel as a result of wind sprints or getting hit by lacrosse balls. It's a very satisfying soreness.
In today's yoga practice, I had a difficult time letting go and just being throughout the entire practice. My body was tighter and because of that I felt frustrated, thwarted in achieving my goals. I have to remember that on the whole I still feel good, feel taller, and feel longer and leaner. I need to remember to go to class and accept where I am with the understanding that everyday my body will be different. This practice really highlights areas I want to work on outside of the studio. I need to let go of expectations and continue to just be.
...Maybe the outside world won't fade entirely away, but that's okay I need to honor where I am. The way I learn in there (today, I felt for the first time today a down dog alignment and what exactly constitutes a tucked tailbone) mirrors learning in the 'real world'. Step by step, gradual, and only when ready.
S'pose you learn a little each day, eh?
Hot House Yoga: yikes, what did I sign myself up for?
Let me tell you about my first session at Hot House Yoga. My body can squat 185 (on a good day), bench 125 (on a really good day), dip, push up, and prone hold with the best of 'em, but I am unable to touch my toes... well, let's be honest, I am unable to touch my shins. In this first initial experience, I am finding yoga requires a different type of strength. It's mental and physical like everything else, but there's no bruiting one's way through it. My lack of balance has never been so highlighted. The strength it requires: the ability to laugh at oneself and mental focus.
What I thought was strength as a goal keeper: my erratic and spastic form has become a limitation. Physically, then, yoga becomes an entirely different experience for me. In an outward sense, it challenges my weaknesses of balance and flexibility. Inwardly, it also challenges my weaknesses: focus, BREATHING, and letting go of all distractions...
As my body dripped with sweat and my muscles stretched till they were tired, I couldn't possibly foresee my body in half of the eloquent positions my instructor eased herself into. Like life, I had to simplify. The challenge was not to eagle, bow, or rabbit pose like the 'pros', the challenge was to accept where my current position and to trust myself a little further each day. It's amazing how applicable to life these lessons are.
My second session is the day I became further familiar with awareness. What starts now as a glimpse, I hope to make a permanent occurrence. Stillness is a quiet a force to be reckoned with. Clearly, honesty and vulnerability prevail in this state. It's quite amazing to think that as a strong athlete, student, and woman I would be so unfamiliar with allowing myself to go there, however, I am so used to pushing through and pushing on towards a future goal, just being seems to be difficult to obtain.
Today in class, I went through pose by pose. I tried not to look at others, tried not look in the mirror...my goal was to not be too serious (remember, I still can't touch my shins), but also to find my intention for the class. Tonight my wonderful roommate and tremendous friend came with me. I was glad to have someone with whom I could share in this experience. After class we discussed how nice it would be to do as our instructor noted: to find our intention and then to get to a place where we could practice (live life) from there. I felt humbled as my intention was just to be aware. If I was desiring this, then, I was probably detached from awareness. My motto in life is to TRUST, TRUTH, LOVE, and BE.... it's so interesting to note that I had to cognitively work to really obtain the latter... for now.
On a closing note, as the music for final pose savasana-a pose of total relaxation-played, I tried to follow my breathing. Maybe I'm not to the point of total relaxation, but I couldn't help but feel as though I was on the right path simply because John Lennon was singing my song.
Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today
Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world
You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one
The Yoga Study: the effects of Yoga on the super-stressed senior
This whole project started with one realization. My life is a whirlwind and I am something resembling organized chaos. I'm a fortunate woman. I have my health, a college education, I play lacrosse for a living, I've got wonderful friends and a stellar family-I have all the joys a girl could ask for, but something still isn't right. This feeling led me to examine my current situation in efforts to fix that something...
I am a student facing what at times seems like an inescapable and highly threatening May graduation. Inevitably, then, this means that although I have yet to feel the joyous tides of my college days recede, I can see the waves of tomorrow rolling in-- steadily. Am I excited? Absolutely. Am I terrified? Absolutely. And I worry so much. Will I make it after graduation? What am I going to do after graduation? What do I want to do after graduation? Law school, massage school, utilize the professional and technical writing degree I've worked so hard for and paid so much to receive? Oh, I worry. I worry that I found ODU's Career Management Center too late and that had I started earlier I would've known more clearly the direction I needed to go; I would've been more confident in my resume, more assured that it was error free. I worry that I'll graduate and still not feel comfortable and ready for life after undergrad. I worry, I worry, I worry that it all won't pay off. A common term for this is anxiety. I'm not certain its unique to me, but goodness, I would like to live a life absent such a draining emotion.
I'm looking to feel comfortable with my physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being prior to making these lifetime decisions. I'm looking to change the way I relate to myself and others. I'm looking for stillness. I'm looking for inner peace. Students, I hope this will encourage you to think outside the box and to utilize your resources to create the credit you need or the internship you've always wanted. Faculty, I hope this offers insight into the minds of at least one of your students-I cannot claim to speak for us all, but I am feeling fortunate to offer perspective. To all, if this seems absolutely absurd for you, I encourage you to hang with me. If all goes as planned, this will be a process of tremendous growth. I realize this may not be of personal interest to you, but fellow students, faculty, and staff I hope somehow this will inspire you.
In order to graduate, I must complete at least 7 credits. My two English classes total 6, leaving me one final credit. My only option: "career exploration," where Wednesday mornings would leave me 'blackboarding,' dry writing, and figuring my options as an English major. While I do not doubt this class would benefit me, it was a far cry from what I wanted my last semester in college to look like. Confident in my academic experience at ODU, I wanted something that would satisfy a different type of learning. I needed something that would satisfy my new taste for intrinsic inquiry. True, I've learned invaluable life lessons as I've progressed throughout my four years here. And yes, I feel as though I've journeyed enough to become a confident woman. I'm just still looking for something...
I feel as though it's important to note that my questions are not about capability. My time at ODU has prepared me adequately. I find adventure in moving here or moving there and I am confident that I will excel in my professional endeavors. What then is the very thing I feel like I'm missing? What is that something? The answer as mentioned earlier was something everyone longs for-inner peace. That said, I left behind "career explorations" and started searching out how I could achieve one credit and work towards my goal of inner peace. I felt so strongly about the seriousness of obtaining inner peace, I had to find an option that would help propel me towards this goal. True, I could look inward on my own time, but with the wicked stress and workload personal time was becoming harder to find. Somehow, I needed this one credit to become mandatory personal time. Out of necessity comes resolution.
HOW THE CREDIT CAME TO BE: As noted, I was mad sick of stress and way too grumpy about my sore muscles assaulting me during practice. The daily headaches needed to subside. Was life and stress really getting to me, free-spirited me, so much? Again, I know its something all senior student-athletes go through, but goodness, letting myself feel like a rowboat in a perfect storm was simply not my style.
It struck just like a movie on the back of my eyelids, Hot House Yoga emblazoned itself into my consciousness.
I want to study the effects of yoga on my body, mind, and spirit. I am a student, an athlete, and a woman entangled and currently very stifled by the aforementioned stresses. In my fist experience with yoga, I felt liberated... could I feel this again? And if so, would an older, more mature sense of self lead me to deeper, more penetrating results. Could yoga, like I've heard before, lead me to a new path of peace and calm? It was worth a try.
TO PARAPHRASE GREATLY:
Dear Old Dominion:
Can I please do this study? Blog for you? Can I please be the product of my own research? May I use my experience with Hot House Yoga for credit? Please? Yes, I'm serious.
Love your almost graduated, super stressed out, can't wait for lacrosse season to begin, kind of sad to be graduating, but excited all the while, senior,
Thank you 105 degree, 40% humidified Hot House Yoga and thank you to the Yax family for sponsoring this learning experience... and thank you Old Dominion, Alice Jones, and Joyce Neff for letting me explore, inquire, and become the results of this study. Thank you for letting this be an entirely new type of "resume builder." Thank you for awarding me a new classroom, and a new teacher. Thank you for recognizing my need to explore this intrinsic inquiry. Thank you all for advocating holistic wellness.
And thank you for letting me share with you, reader, whoever you are.
In efforts to document this influence, I will journal my sessions, experiences, and emotions throughout the process.
Here's to a better me. Here's to a you.
The mind is everything, what you think you become. -Buddah