Yoga and Hope

By Ellen S. Gibson

Hope is a thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the song without the words
And never stops at all.

-Emily Dickinson

Each day I come to the mat, there is the expectation that I will feel better for having practiced yoga. It could be ten uninterrupted minutes or a 45-minute class via Zoom. The amount of time matters less than showing up. Physically, my back may be stiff from too much shoveling. Emotionally, I may be feeling overwhelmed, tense, or anxious. No matter the starting point, when I leave the mat, I am stronger, calmer, and more balanced.

Taking time to pause.

I like to start practice lying on my back. From there, I move comfortably with my back fully supported. Setting my “to-do” list aside, I begin to relax, feeling my breathing slow. Inhaling, my lungs fill with air. Exhaling, a quiet calmness replaces insistent, relentless thoughts.

This is peace of mind. There is solace here.

After taking a few minutes to land, my practice’s pace quickens, and I feel strong leg muscles, test range-of-motion, stretch the spine, lift the gaze, fill the lungs, and expel the air. Familiar sensations, a familiar flow … where will it take me today?

There is power knowing that the decision to practice—to take action—is within my control. This knowledge is comforting because as nice as it would be to control what we encounter in a day, much of what happens is out of our control.  

When life is careening along at breakneck speed, and I’m about to run off the rails, it can be hard to remember:  Pause. Breathe. These actions are within my power–I can slow things down, rein in my thoughts. 

Regular practice helps to reinforce this feedback loop. The breath is always there, ready to deepen and slow. The mat is there, ready for the unrolling. Pausing can become a habit, a way to reckon with everyday ups and downs, to stay on a more even keel in the first place. 

Hope springs from action.

To practice or not to practice may cause an internal struggle. If there is resistance, where does it come from? What is the internal dialogue taking place? What can I learn from it?

Every yoga practice teaches me something. The biggest lesson is this: when I am on the mat, I build strength and resiliency, both physically and emotionally. The decision to act is mine. From that decision comes change, and with that change comes hope. And that knowledge ripples out from me and into the world.

Yours in health,

Ellen


Ellen S. Gibson is a writer, educator, student, part-time farmer, cheesemaker, mother. She really does enjoy wearing different hats. Her day job is with Maine AgrAbility, a program that supports farmers with physical and mental limitations (and doesn’t that describe everyone?) to continue their work in agriculture. She has introduced yoga and mindfulness to her clients to address arthritis and musculoskeletal injuries from farming and gardening. She writes the Maine AgrAbility blogGotta Lotta Livin’ To Do

She lives and writes from her farm on Stearns Hill in West Paris, raising Nubian goats and managing this historic farm.

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