I just returned from a dreamy yoga retreat in Ireland with one of my favorite teachers. One thing about a yoga retreat is that Day One of yoga is truly unlike Day Five and that’s because it takes some undoing to get the chattering mind to shut up.
If you’ve ever practiced yoga, you may have discovered that beyond the challenge of the physical poses – it takes time to get the mind to quiet down.
The reality is, there’s no easy way to quiet the thoughts unless you’re a monk. Frankly, it’s astounding how hard it is to stop the internal dialogue.
“What the hell could be so difficult – so distracting –what is my mind so busy with –what is so damn important that can’t wait til later?” I pondered this during the retreat and set an intention to: “breath — move through poses –listen — focus — full stop.”
A close up look at my chattering mind moving through 7 key poses revealed the problem –I was a tad alarmed and amused by what I discovered.
Guiltily, I now call these 7 poses the “chattering mind series” which actually leads to a satisfying conclusion.
1. Down Dog:
Stepping into down dog from a standing posture is familiar territory. Hands and feet cover the four corners of the mat. Eyes gaze toward the ankles. “Shit I can’t believe that pedicure is chipped — it’s only 3 days old.”
Bend the knees a wee bit and tilt tailbone up. Drop heels toward the matt gaze rests on thighs.
“I love these purple tights, I should have bought 2 pairs.”
Moving forward from down dog into plank, elbows bent — belly engages, gaze is soft and breath begins to steady.
“What 2 minutes in this pose –butt feels extraordinarily heavy –feels like someone but a sandbag on my ass.”
Arms begin to tremble – breath gets tighter – jaw clenches…
“Let go, relax.” I gaze over at fit woman with flat stomach next to me who is literally floating in her plank.
“Hmmmm, sandbag sinking” I gaze toward belly button – “Flab – engage flab – how do you engage flab?”
3. Cobra Pose
“I’m lying down, relief – made it through.” Extreme Audible Exhale.
Hands by shoulders flat on mat — peel upper body off the mat leave pelvis on matt.
Chest lifts, shoulders draw back, tops of feet press into the ground.
“My back feels great, I love this pose. I can’t believe how saggy my boobs are — need to remember to put pads in Koobie bra next time.”
4. Transition to Stand
Love this transition – I move like a pup into its morning stretch. Roll over toes and raise butt in a high salute to beloved down dog.
“Thighs look narrow from inverted angle –I really like this pose, I can hear my breath — I am in my breath.” Walk feet up to hands – standing forward bend. Micro bend knees and then arms up up up rising to stand and touch the sky. My breathing is easy and fills my ears.
Draw hands down together to prayer pose – ahhh much better.
5. Balancing Pose
“I think we’re going into tree”. The teacher calls the pose – “Nope not going to tree – where are we going – I want to do tree.” I’m back in forward bend but one leg is rising and it’s a standing split. I’m so not in a standing split – nope – my leg won’t go any higher
“Oh no – we are moving into warrior 3 – I knew it – impossible – i can’t get there from here — I did it — I’m balancing on one leg arms stretched like an airplane”. I find my breath – it’s there, I forgot about it but I’m back – into the breath but it’s sort of inaccessible.
Inhale a lot – skip Exhale – no breathing palpable.
“My left hip hurts –I should get that checked – is that bone on bone problem or just a tight hip .”
Leg comes down and I find my way onto my back.
Not sure I ever properly breathed through this entire pose.
6. Happy Baby
How did I get into this cozy pose? Black out yoga moment – I’m on my back and grateful. Odd but delightful pose best described as yoga meets GYN annual – holding the outside of my feet knees bent toward armpits my butt unselfconsciously splayed.
Big Exhale all the way to the bottom of the breath
Big Inhale – joy
Balance balance – calm
My legs are flat on ground – I’m a corpse – I’m done and my breathing is lovely and even – my eye lids are soft and my body feels light. I hear the teacher’s voice – she is reading something – I go back to my breath. The hard wood floor under my yoga back feels incredibly comfortable – everything melts into the mat – my body and my breathing and my brain. I am still – I have conquered the chatter – I am light and calm and chatter is gone. I love yoga.