As un-yogi-like as this may sound, for a long time I used yoga as my means of feeling like a warrior.
I began as a hot yoga junkie, and with each drop of sweat, each time I endured 105 degree temperatures, and with each limit that I pushed passed, I felt as if I was really conquering myself... and I was. I was slaying my demons in each uncomfortable moment.
I breathed through discomfort and found comfort in feeling uncomfortable. An element of suffering was part of my practice and it was exactly what I needed.
A shamanic healer (queue the hookey-bookey music) that I had worked with confirmed that part of my healing was finding my peace in the midst of a practice in which I sought out an element of suffering.
Stoking the Fire Within
Over time, I began to practice in regular temperature. I learned all about pranayama and stoking that internal fire within. I discovered that I could sweat and still get the benefits of detoxification by incorporating breathing techniques like ujjayi breath in my practice.
Even still, if someone mentioned restorative practice, I became dismissive. I had gone to some restorative classes and it was pure bliss, no doubt. I simply felt as if I was not practicing anything. I didn’t feel fierce. I didn’t feel as if I was making any progress in my asana practice, and it seemed as if the time spent in restorative was time and effort that I could be putting into my physical practice.
Looking back, these ideas were a signal that my healing was a work in progress.
As I transitioned from extreme heat to regular temperature, I uncovered the power of my own breath. Over time, I also learned the importance of support from restorative yoga.
The Barrier of Independence
Very often, we feel as if needing support means that we do not have a warrior spirit. We want to feel fierce, independent, and successful. I was viewing Restorative yoga as a signal that I was becoming weak in my body and mind by needing to set aside time to restore.
Having a metal rod in my spine and facing possible paralysis has ingrained this idea in my psyche that I must constantly look my fate in the face, bow down to it, and fiercely show it that I will use this opportunity to defy every limitation.
That sounds pretty badass! Our entire existence is symbiotic in nature so that is a pretty tall order.
The Eight-Limbed Path
Over time, as my practice became a more inward journey, I began to fully understand the Eight- Limbed Path at a much deeper level.
Yoga allows you to rediscover a sense of wholeness in your life, where you do not feel like you are constantly trying to fit broken pieces together. ~B.K.S. Iyengar
One afternoon, unexpectedly, my instructor pulled out props and began guiding a restorative practice. It was as if she could sense how badly I needed it. At first, I was resistant. When I let go, released, and allowed myself to be completely supported, I found myself in a very emotional state.
This state was a release. It was an opening — an allowing of deeper intimacy with my own body. That day, I peeled back another layer of my journey.
The Use of Props
A restorative practice frequently relies on the use of props, as prolonged holding of poses provide a deeper sense of relaxation. As I lay on my bolster, allowing it to take all of my weight, including the weight of my mind, I began to think of this prop as a metaphor for the people in our lives who elevate us.
So much of yoga practice is a beautiful dance on our mats of what happens in our daily lives — we struggle, we hold our breath, we resist because we want to feel comfortable again, and only in surrender do we reach new depths.
During my restorative practice, I allowed myself to feel fully supported. I surrendered my weight to my prop, and in that moment, I felt worthy of being elevated.
The Gift of a Slow Pace
I work in New York City. Each day, the frenetic energy surrounds me as I must keep up with the flow of pedestrian traffic. I’ve certainly found peace on my yoga mat like never before, and at the same time, only in restorative practice does my speedometer return to zero.
I’ve had such beautiful experiences in Savasana. A restorative practice comforts the mind and soothes the soul at a cellular level. It allows us to explore the mind and slow but steady pace.
A Deepened Sense of Self
I recently led my first Restorative Workshop. I never imagined when I first signed up for teacher training that I would lead a restorative practice. It truly was a beautiful experience and I felt as if I’d opened a new door, not only in my own journey as a yoga teacher, but I felt as if I’d led the practitioners down a path that fosters true self-love.
The subdued nature of a restorative yoga class often helps us draw our attention inward and away from external events. We can steadily direct our awareness within as the practice becomes a sanctuary for the mind and spirit. This allows us to take a deeper look at who we are and what we want.
We can only serve the world if we contemplate self-exploration and allow our inner being to shine forth.
This is a warrior spirit.