Monica recently graduated from our Teacher Training program, and currently volunteers behind the desk on Friday mornings. In this post she shares about her experience of practicing yoga outside in the elements, and in particular, during a summer storm! As the weather warms up we might think about taking our mat outside for a few poses in the sunlight (or the rain). We hope you enjoy Monica’s poetic writing.
There wouldn’t be a concept of Space if the Earth element were nonexistent.
I’ve always had the desire to ground myself. The enormity of bringing myself down from lapses of panic requires more mental concentration than I sometime deem possible. Anxiety has a home nested within my chest. A taut, clenching sensation blooms words of worry and fear – in replacement of mindfulness – up my throat; sometimes only to have something spoken to fill the space.
What brings me back to breathing and stability? Tending to my succulents that inhabit a window-sill of teacups; watching the end of Toy Story 3 and allowing full-body weeping; breathing, consistently the first thing that is written in my journal daily; and rain.
I have memories of running out into thunderstorms and holding my palms towards the sky, feeling the raindrops connect with my cheeks and arms. The weight pushed me deeper into my connection to myself. Little did I realize I was deepening my Urdhva Hastasana. There was nothing else. The space surrounding me was occupied by elements that I share with my body. Grounding to the Earth is difficult, but connecting to water filling the air around me? Pure bliss.
And I was able to experience this again during an outdoor yoga class this past summer. An unknown wish. Forecasters were calling for rain. It had been starkly humid for a few days, and the cool breeze didn’t hint at the magnitude of the storm approaching. Thinking the weather would hold off long enough for us nature-focused yogis to enjoy a class outdoors, I ventured forth to enjoy the day.
The clouds were looming darkly overhead while we were setting up our mats. A couple of my fellow Teacher Trainees were leading the class and they started us off with breath. Distant rumbles, questioning eyebrows and searching eyes; Mother Nature had decided to join our class and release some stress as well. She deepened Her inhales and exhales, creating contortions in the trees and branches as the leaves rustled with movement. The air got damper, sweetly flavored. And suddenly, the thunder reverberated into the soil beneath our mats. It seemed like a good a time as any to start the class.
The wind picked up. Through shoulder openers and Surya Namaskars it seemed Mother Nature postponed the rain, distracted by her own breath. Sending pure energy against our bodies, shaking us, testing our foundations. I fumbled to maintain my pose here and there – smile it off. The connection between our pose and the Earth was palpable. We moved through asana, progressing our breath as a storm billowed amongst us. The rain began to softly fall. The energy in the air shifted from congested staleness to invigorated newness. We could hear the offerings crashing against the leaves canopying our class, shielding us from a potential chill. Thank goodness for sixty foot trees. Deeper movement, the rainfall became heavier, and drops snuck through our coverage. Only one or two, here and there, nothing close enough to persuade me indoors. The flicks of pressure on the top of my shoulder reminds me to pull my shoulder blades down upon my back in to open my heart. Taps on the tops of my feet encourage rooting into my mat to cultivate strength. Furthermore, in Downward Dog, feeling the rain hit my low back and trail down my spine towards my head, I felt the search from the sky reaching to connect with the source of grounding energy, lengthening my neck towards the Earth, persuading my palms deeper into the pose. Such a simple gesture from Mama N: always come back to Earth. And with the help of the rain, it felt possible.
The teachers spoke eloquently as rumbles echoed beneath our feet and a thunder chanted through the air.
Our class was slowly coming to an end as the rain began to pour. A few of us stayed for an extended Savasana, pools forming in our eyes, palms and smiles. The power of the shower crashing against our skin encouraged us to stay longer with the beautiful elements amongst us. Words don’t need to be expressed during active meditation. I breathed in Mother Nature’s exhales to fill my lungs, and out, allowing the worry and fear within me to touch the world outside of my chest, starting a healing process of gratitude and acceptance.
It was a class that will remain in my mind palace forever. A physical and emotional memory I can tap into in times of stress and anxiety. Come back to Earth, through the rain, the sunbeams, or breath, whenever you need to. It will be there waiting.
Monica Sheridan is a 24-year-old garden-loving yogi living in Uptown Waterloo with her partner and cat. She has been practicing yoga for 5 years and is looking forward to continuing her yoga education after completing Teacher Training in December 2014.