Expanding our Internal Rhythm Through Yoga
Since I was a kid I’ve been drawn to the intimate personal connection we can generate through movement. This internal, familiar, yet subconscious rhythm is part of what gets us up in the morning for that early morning run, a paddle on calm seas, or a pedal through the woods on our mountain bike. We plug into ourselves to set up our day. I used to think I could only find this rhythm while moving—until I started doing Iyengar yoga back in the late 80’s. And though I still prefer moving to holding a pose, I now know that regularly standing still makes me feel even more in tune while in forward motion.
Though I didn’t initiate a regular yoga practice until my late 20’s as a triathlete, I’m convinced I was ‘practicing’ since I was a kid of 10. During breaks from the Jr. Lifeguard program I used to love to take a surf board out past the surf line and just lay on it. I’d close my eyes and replicate what I didn’t know then was savasana while feeling the natural swell of the ocean rise and fall, as if it were breathing underneath me.
But until I was almost 30 I only sought that type of internal connection through movement and nature: The natural dance of my feet on a trail, the consistent check-in with each body part as I sliced through the water in a swim workout, or the way the world would drop away as I singularly focused on sending power to the drive train of my bicycle. I had no interest in doing a movement form of yoga, because I already moved enough, and static stretching was doing a fine job. Wasn’t it? What could yoga do that I didn’t already have?
I got the answer when attempting my first triangle pose.
I happened upon a yoga teacher who was precision oriented, had a deadpan personality, and was challenging. I affectionately (and secretly!) labeled her “The Yoga Nazi.” She was perfect.
She enticed me to focus on that first triangle pose in the same way I was required to dig down into my psyche the last five miles of an Ironman triathlon. She caused me to take on warrior pose with the same focus as intimately engaging in drills in the pool. I would stand in one position, and connect internally with the same rhythm I had mastered while powering my bike into a headwind on the Kona coast.
The result of holding still regularly each week was that I became more open and connected to moving forward for really long periods of time.
Even today, I prefer to hold yoga poses rather than move through them, and though many a friend have tried to talk me into hot yoga, I’m not interested in getting sweaty in my yoga practice. I already do that. A lot. I don’t want music, drums, or incense. I just want to silently hold still because it’s then that I can feel the multitude of internal rhythms happening while doing a downward facing dog.
And today this is still the same dynamic connection that my core has to the ocean when it powers my kayak blade. Or the way my feet intuitively find the perfect spots to touch down on a familiar trail when I forget I’m a fragile human in the woods.
Or even the way I can plant my feet and patiently relax while standing in line at the grocery store.