Monday, November 17, 2014

What I Learned from Yoga on the Beach

Yoga had always been an interest of mine, but it was only this year that I started to go to a yoga class. The things that I learned through yoga have enhanced my life.

I learned about balance and accepting myself as I was in the moment. I grew more familiar with my body, its challenges and strengths, and the beauty that was inside of me and how it could shine through to the outside.

Yoga teaches you to breathe through the discomfort, smile despite the awkwardness and to do the best you can. All of these valuable lessons are reinforced whenever I go to another yoga class.

Yoga had transitioned from just an interest to a passion.

Thus upon waking up Sunday morning, yoga instantly took the place of the last wisps of my dreams. I hadn't been to a class in almost a month and my body was reminding me with its various aches and pains, that I was in need of a session.

I gathered myself up and started to prepare for the eight o'clock outdoor class in the park, only to hear that it had been cancelled due to the unfriendly weather.

I felt as gloomy as the sky; with my schedule it is very difficult to get to the weekly classes as I often have to work on weekends.

All was not lost though, because Taitu, my wonderful teacher suggested a class on the beach. I was instantly on board with that idea and we only needed the clouds to get with the program and cease their incessant weeping.

Finally there was a break in the rain and I set out. Taitu and I meet in Holetown and made our way to the beach.

The sand was wet and the sky was dreary but despite that, the ocean stretched out across the endless horizon more inviting and majestic than any man-made swimming pool could ever hope to be.

We we reached a spot that seemed flat enough to suit our purpose, we set down our towels and began the class. It was not destined to be business as usual however, for one important reason, the sand.

The sand became an additional element to the class. It clung to our bodies, the towels and as it is wont to do, shifted and moved constantly. In order to stand firm I had to dig my feet deep within its cool dampness, and become rooted like a tree.

Inspiration for finding centre abounded. The ocean in front of us and the sound of its crashing waves provided a stunning backdrop for our elegant dance like movements.

We had an audience that not only consisted of the numerous flies; other beach-goers stared at our movements and contortions with interest. I took a moment to see the scene as if viewing it from their eyes: Two beautiful bajan queens, moving meditatively as if paying homage to the sea, not concerned with the modern world but only intent on connecting to nature and with our inner spirits.

The thought made me smile. I acknowledged that if this same scene had played out months ago, I would have been very self-concious and distracted with wondering at the content of the thoughts or opinions of the audience. Now I easily let them fade into the background and returned my focus to my breath.

"Breathe in deeply and feel the energy of the earth filling you," Taitu said, "Reach high above you - sorry, I can't lift my hands any higher, no way I am getting sand in my hair."

There laughter at that point as we modified the pose to keep sand out of Taitu's dreads and my short hair. Despite our mirth, or maybe aided by it, I found myself sinking deeper into a trance as I inhaled the scent of lotus flowers wafting from the incense stick that was burning slowly away in the sand behind us.

I found a challenge in the Warrior Pose but I pushed past my discomfort seeking the relief of deep, energizing breaths.

"All the poses are metaphors," was one of Taitu's favourite saying. Courage and self confidence had always been  my weakness, so it no surprise that I struggled with the pose that personified inner strength. Because of that I knew it was all the more important to persevere.

We seemed trapped in a pocket of time as we transitioned from movement to stillness; eternity was at our command as we settled into meditation, focusing inward to the rhythmic crash of the waves. In this silence of the mind, I found peace.

Later, we retreated to the sea to cool down our bodies and in my case let my sore muscles be gently massaged by the waves. I was filled to the brim with gratitude and blissfully content. In Taitu's words, this was a slice of heaven.

Thinking back on that experience, I came upon the lesson in our outing:  One should be rooted even as the world shifts around you. Adjust your position until you find balance and take as much time as you need to relax into the moment.

Too often change comes up upon us like a wave and we find ourselves tumbling helpless in the surf. Instead we need to flow with the tide, while still being firm in our values. Only then can we find peace.