The other day, I was listening to the news and they were talking about Gabrielle Giffords’ recovery. Dr. Sanjay Gupta was offering his comments on a video of her. In it, she was singing, “Girls just wanna have Fun,” full on, all out, her head swinging back and forth, a huge smile on her face, clapping to the music. The use of music is a big part of her therapy. Dr. Gupta was talking about her current challenges finding the right words and said that while finding the right words for conversation is hard, when it comes to singing, it’s actually a different mental process to recall words to songs. He went onto say those memories live in a different part of the brain and she almost flows from word to word more from a deep sense of knowing, routine and habit than intellect.
As I listened to this description, it reminded me of how yoga becomes engrained in your body. After just a few months of practice, you can feel new patterns of movement begin to take hold. But in many ways, it’s not so much that they’re new patterns of movement; they’re the old patterns that have been replaced by unhealthy patterns or habits. Just as with Gabrielle’s wonderful singing, it comes from a deep place. It comes from a place beyond thinking but more from deep memory.
When I work with people in class or even more so, in private sessions, I have a chance to hear about them. I have the one aspect of working with them, which is the physical realm. That’s comprised of their alignment, how their body moves, their approach to yoga. But there’s so much more beneath the surface and some of that comes up as we talk about different things going on in their life or a little bit about their background. Some students have athletics in their background but years of working hard and raising families have taken priority. Some people have dance in their background. Others have a passion for health but over the years, their health has taken a hit due to illness or injury.
But more times than not, with consistent practice, their former self starts to come through. I can see it even in the first session, although it’s not always clear to me because I don’t have the back-story. But as that gets filled in and the practices continue, I see more stability, more strength, more purpose in the poses. I also see deeper relaxation at the end of our practices.
This doesn’t come from complex poses or from daily two-hour practices. It comes more from consistently showing up on the mat, with an open mind and a willingness to do your best.
So today, if you’re feeling unstable, unsteady, heavy, and achy or a shadow of your former self, have faith. Start with a few deep breaths. Then, try yoga, maybe for the first time. Find a teacher to work with or visit a local studio. It may not happen right away, but in time, you will start to feel more grounded. And with consistent practice, you’ll tap into those deep muscle and soulful memories of being strong, open and comfortable in your own skin. It will happen!