The other night, I heard a story about a man’s life. He told it in 10 minutes flat through a metaphor about his favorite tree. He was a generous and engaging speaker, conversational in tone and easy to hear. He used his Japanese Maple as a metaphor, describing its canopy of leaves in the spring and summer, and its inner core of twisting branches revealed when bare in the winter.
He has had to learn how to tend the tree so that it lives year round. This involves cutting back the branches and, while the pruning oftentimes leaves scars, he explained that this is what facilitates growth in all sorts of new directions.
Yoga has sort of pruned me.
I had heard about this, that yoga peels back the layers, but I never really believed it. I did not even know I had any layers that needed peeling! And, really, I began this practice for the exercise only. Little did I know that it would provide more than a glimpse of my inner core, and that I would get a full on view of some of the scars found there.
Somehow, each pose opens the door a little wider, helping me inside myself in a way I was not before.
I think it was the Backbends that did me in, in this fashion. They are supposed to be heart openers, and we do several variations of them: Wheel Pose where our bodies are in an all out Backbend with hands and feet planted on the floor; Camel Pose where we are on our knees, leaning back to grab our ankles; Locust Pose where we are prone and lift everything but our hips off the ground; Bridge Pose with our knees up and our shoulders planted, hips lifted, and, finally, Bow Pose where we rock on our stomachs while grabbing our feet from behind.
The heart shines through in each of these poses. It is physical but also apparently emotional and, although I am aware of the physicality while working through the poses, I am often surprised by any of the subsequent emotional effects.
The speaker displayed pictures of his Japanese Maple, one from the spring with its canopy, and one from the winter without. Of course, the springtime photo was lovely with its lush leaves, but there was even more beauty in the bareness of the winter one with its dark and twisting branches, still straining towards the sun. Beautiful, inside and out.
I have heard those words, that I am beautiful, inside and out. But, when the pruning begins, and I am privy to the bareness inside, it can be a challenge to believe.
At one point, the speaker said, a winter storm dumped a clump of snow on the leaves before he had a chance to brush them away for the season, and the tree broke.
He just fixed it up with what was handy. Duct tape. Making do with what he had at the time.
Hip openers are another group of yoga poses that pry open the door, as well. Pigeon Pose where we place one leg with the knee bent at the top of the mat while laying prone overtop, and Double Pigeon where we sit up, keeping the one leg bent at the knee and placing the other over it while folding over both. We also open up in Down Dog. In our inverted “V’s” with feet and hands on the floor and bottoms in the air, we stack the hips while lifting one leg bending it back for a big side opener.
The practice of yoga asks that we set an intention; however, mine was only ever to get fit, not to peel and reveal. In the end, I guess I am just hoping to grow from the inside out, even if it finds me twisting in a new direction.
Maybe, like the Maple Tree, I will strain towards the sun and find some beauty inside and out.
A collection of Anne's posts can be found at http://YogaSpeak.blogspot.com