Feel the Burn

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I think about awareness a lot, as I’m sure you have noticed. We zoom through this world only seeing our thoughts whizzing by, caught in a tumult of the past and future but rarely do we see what’s in the present moment.

This idea of awareness is crucial to yoga.

As a fun fact, I’m actually a certified yoga instructor. Before I came to Albion my freshman year, I sat in a spacious yoga studio with bamboo floors, dim lights and ivory curtains for hours a day for two weeks. We learned about the roots of yoga from ancient history to Ashtanga yoga that branched into Vinyasa to slow burn.

We were taught the language of sanskrit; I remember when I’d speak sanskrit–Adho Mukha Svasana–the sounds and inflections were a whimsical dance. One of my favorite days was when the bone guy came to class. He showed us that flexibility, when it all boils down, is dependent on your bone structure—you can only bend as far as your skeleton will let you.

When I don’t stretch and release the tension in my stiff and crinkly muscles, it’s hard to move. It feels like my bones swelled in size; I’m no longer fluid. I’m grumpy because I can’t bend over. I have to constantly shift around, awkwardly arching my back in the tiny confines of the school desks, trying not to hit my neighbor in the head, or be that one kid who knocks all their papers off the desk in an eruption of rustling paper.

And sometimes my IT band in my right leg gets so tight, it pulls and presses on my sciatic nerve, and boom, my leg gives out and I’m on the ground.

I decided to sit down to do a yoga practice in my room this week. I shoved my beanbags to the side and scooted my table away, so I had some space for my legs and arms, helicoptering them around me to make sure everything was out of reach.

I sat up tall with my legs stretched out in front of me and folded over them.

This hurt. I didn’t even realize how stiff I was—my quads felt like metal rods trying to bend. When I practiced consistently, like the summer before my freshman year of college, I never felt my muscles pull and burn like they did this morning.

Later in the practice, I started on my hands and knees. I placed my forearms flat on the floor and pressed them into the mat as I tucked my toes under and lifted my butt and hips into the air. This is called dolphin pose–Makarasana.

Needless to say, this was uncomfortable, and ridiculous. If I walked in on myself, I’d be rolling on the floor laughing. Sanskrit makes it sound graceful, but sometimes I’m not. I persisted anyways. I pulled my right leg into the air and held this position for what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only 45 seconds. I shakily put my right foot down, and held my left leg in the air.

My muscles were quivering and burning as if they were trying to burst out of my skin. They, and I, felt alive. I was aware of my muscles that sometimes slip my mind. There was not a single thought in my head that wasn’t rooted to my quaking body. I was here. Present.

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