I just spent a weekend with my teacher. Surrounded by like-minded and like-hearted students just like me. Yogis, yoga teachers, psychologists, chiropractors, and sincere seekers. It was an experience that pushed my limits and filled me up. Even in a short amount of time, I was able to expand the boundaries of my container and then filled it to the brim.
And it was intense. Most of us always practice harder in class than we do at home. We try harder, we trust the intensity in a different way, we know we are supported in going deep. And did I mention it was intense. My body, having not been pushed or challenged in a while, had a lot to say, and mostly it screamed. Every muscle felt raw, exposed. And the Para Yoga style of movement isn't a fast paced, sweat your ass off kind of asana. It's a slow, deliberate, powerful way to practice asana that requires you to gather all of your strength and capacity around your purpose and then "sit with" what your system delivers in response. Scream.
My body was enveloped in two practices a day, my intellect was stretched by lectures on Tantra, energy, power and potential. My heart was expanding and beating against the walls of the protective container I've so diligently placed brick by brick around it over the years (and lifetimes). I was at my maximum. More than once I wondered if I could continue. Then I remembered some interesting information I read recently from Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson, about capacity we have to rewire our brains in favor of the positive. He says when we slow down our experiences and notice the good, we can then receive the good in any moment (even the challenging ones). Pretty simple, huh? So as my body and mind were stretching to the edge of their capacity, I turned my inner focus to the feeling of growth. I was in the experience of growing. Right there in the center of it. I didn't wake up one day and realize I had expanded, I was feeling it in the immediate moment. With this realization I would feel a surge of power that allowed me to stay in it. Stay present with sensation and move through the doubt.
Hanson says the next step is to absorb the good that is now defining your experience, to yield to it. The direction reminds me of the experience of crawling up on my grandmother's lap as a small child. Once I made it there, I was happy, then I would let down. I would soften into her support and take in the sensations, the smells, the feelings, the rhythm of the moment. In Hanson's research, when we can yield to the experience of the good, we start to re-wire our brains, we "turn a passing mental state into a lasting neural structure."
By the end of the weekend, I was steeped in joy. The intensity, rather than drain me, was the very thing that softened me. I was surrounded by my community, the support structures of the practice. I was with my teacher. I was truly and deeply happy. I returned to my life feeling more receptive and more inspired than maybe I ever have. And now, days later, I am still drawing on this deep well of gratitude and softness that the weekend offered. I am so grateful for these opportunities, and wish for you all the opportunity to refill.