My body doesn’t fit into lotus pose right now. I usually do shoulder stand with a lot of support.
When I press into wheel, my arms don’t quite straighten all the way. My hips oscillate between tight to just somewhat tight. I love props. Give me a class that utilizes bolsters, blocks, walls, and straps, and I’m in OM heaven. Sometimes in crow, it feels like my feet are nailed to the mat. Lately though, I've discovered I'm particularly gifted at savasana. Yes, that’s right: corpse pose.
The other day I took a class and the teacher kept adjusting and circling around me. The class was moving at such a rapid pace that I simply eased down from plank and pressed back to child’s pose, folded forward, and cried a little. Not too loud. Not too much. I kept thinking, What am I “working” here? In or out? Am I here to see and be seen or connect to that which is less perceptible, but just as real as what I can’t see?
With my head pressed to the mat and in between slow sips of air and light tears, I realized that my yoga practice stopped being just about asana (postures) a long time ago. Recent injuries and experiences in my life have made that shift more pronounced, causing me to move more slowly than typical in order to hear the siren of an approaching edge and to align more deeply from a place inside truth. I’m no longer willing to strain my rotator cuff to be seen in some “cool” pose or cramp the flow of my breath to appear to be deeper in a pose than my body is ready to be in.
Don’t get me wrong; I'm inspired when a witness sees a pose executed in a way that is both easeful, opening, and steady. I respect the discipline and commitment that it takes to have an advanced physical yoga practice. I know that maintaining a regular physical practice has countless benefits. I practice daily. It’s just not so vigorous all the time. Some mornings I skip sun salutations for legs up the wall. Some days I trade in the heat and sweat of “power” for Yin yoga’s cool, quiet, and long holds. I love movement, but sometimes stillness is the medicine I need.
I'm a recovering overachiever, learning to be gentle and kind to myself. I used to use my physical yoga practice as just another way to measure myself: too big, too little, better than or not good enough.
Now I'm only interested in a yoga practice that makes me kinder, more honest, act with a deeper sense of purpose, integrity, and love toward myself and others.
I'm not so interested in the shapes I can make with my body. I am interested in the shape of my heart and your heart.
I love music. But to be honest, these days I am not so interested in the tunes we can move and groove to in class as the recordings in my mind, your mind, and how we can hold space for each other to be quiet and press pause on some of the records that keep us spinning.
I believe in the power of cultivating and building a community. But these days I'm less interested in any yoga scene.
I'm more interested in that which can't be seen, but felt.
Octavia Raheem is a life partner, student, teacher, writer, and sometimes vegan cookie making, raw juice drinking kind of woman. She loves movement, sweat, yoga, listening to others’ true and imagined stories, real food, real people, and real deep hugs. You can connect with her at her website or at facebook.com/octaviaraheem.