It's one of the first poses I ever tried, my leg shaking and my eyes glued to the Wii's digital Yoga instructor. And it's also one of my favorites. The tree pose, where your arms mimics the "branches" and legs the "trunk" of a tree.
Today, my pose looks shakier than usual. My foot, soaked in sweat, threatens to slide off my leg while I keep my eyes on my reflection in the mirror. One girl in Spandex, smaller than most of the other 20 odd yogis in the studio. The newbie literally branching out into the adventure of hot yoga classes.
My introduction to yoga ironically coincided with my entry into the world of celiac disease. I was too skinny to keep up my high intensity exercise routine, so I looked for a new way to build up muscles and burn off some energy. Hello to many confused, inflexible sessions on a towel in my living room and, later, in my dorm room at college. And hello to transforming from the shortie who couldn't touch her toes to a homegrown yogi, taking the free weekly class led at my college by a fellow student.
When I stepped into my first professionally-taught yoga class two weeks ago, though, I felt just as nervous as my dad, who was trying yoga for the first time. But by the time we rolled up our mats, still damp from practice, we both couldn't wait to come back. So four days later, I did. Alone. Mentally reciting the hot yoga tips I'd read online as I stepped into a room packed with students, humidity and a 100 degree temperature.
And sweat, I did. But even as I slipped and lost my rhythm and wondered how much longer I had left, I smiled. Because, the more my muscles tightened and lunged and shook, the more I remembered why I love yoga in the first place.
For the ability to feel strong no matter one's size, age, or experience. Old men without shirts, high school girls, mothers, and young women...they were all in the same class together. All flowing to the rhythm of the music and our instructor's voice.
For the chance to slow down and just breathe. Instead of flying through squats, sprints or crunches, I could focus on the tension and release of my muscles as I held crow a little longer than before.
For the reminder that I have control over my body and that every body is different. We each shake to unique degrees in planks. We each are responsible for listening to our own body, and giving it the individual rest and water breaks it needs.
And, perhaps most importantly, for the proof that I can grow. In my physical flexibility. In the degree I can quiet my mind and focus only on my breathing. And in how good it feels to hold hands to heart and say, "Namaste" at the end of practice.
My favorite part of the tree pose is that people grow their "branches" in entirely unique ways. Some keep arms at their sides. Some bend their elbows and twist their wrists to explore what shapes appear in their reflections. And others, like me, keep reaching for the sky.
People's journey with yoga, like the tree pose, is equally individual. Some want stretching and solitude. Others, to sweat and twist out their worries. Me? I want to keep on growing by practicing more, embracing the new and bending deeper into each pose.
One breath at a time.
*Also found at RunningwithSpoon's link party!*
How do you want to grow through your physical activity or meditation? Have you ever tried yoga? Comment below!