I rolled out my mat and noticed the sun shining through the windows of the Yoga Studio. Three windows lined in a perfect row covered the West Wall. The sun was setting and the reflection of light melted it’s reflection on the gorgeous bamboo wood floors. The white walls bringing a sense of purification, cleanliness, and a sense of calm to the room. It reminds me of the first of the niyamas. “Saucha” this is a personal practice of cleanliness of the body, mind, and spirit. At the physical level, this applies to our surroundings and the environment as well as our bodies.
The gorgeous burgundy fabric that is adorning the South wall reminds me of mountain peaks. In the middle of the fabric hangs an OM sign. This sacred symbol is a reminder to the students. Om or AUM is the sound of the universe. Om is one of the most spiritual symbols and is found throughout ancient Hindu texts, prayers, and ceremonies. Chanting the mantra symbolically and physically tunes us into that sound and acknowledges our connection to everything in the world and the universe. The rhythmic vibration has a calming effect on the body and the nervous system similar to the effects of mediation.
The room becomes silent as we stand at the front of our mats. Feet rooted, legs strong. The teacher invites us to bring our hands into the “Anjali Mudra” Palms together in prayer in front of our hearts. We inhale deeply and exhale to the sound of OM. We are instructed to do this three times. Inhale OM… Inhale OM… Inhale OM.
My lungs did not have the capacity to hold the vibration of OM. This was a new way to breathe. My disappointment and grief became very real at this moment. I knew that I had caused harm to myself. In the practice of yoga “Ahimsa” is the practice of non-harming. I sure wished I had learned this way of thinking earlier on in my life. I was brought up catholic and followed the ten commandments but I didn’t think I understood the philosophy. The practice of Ahimsa is to be more kind, accepting, and forgiving of ourselves and others.
I was scared. My ribs tightened and I was feeling lightheaded. Tears began to form, as I tried to hold them back. I felt sorry for myself. I was not able to OM long and loud like my fellow students. My shoulders started to hunch forward and my lips began to curl down. I started to rock back onto my heels to find balance as I tried to stay connected to the earth. Supported. My self-talk begins. Comparing myself and wishing I hadn’t been a heavy cigarette smoker. I was diagnosed in 2009 with COPD. I began to heal my anxiety through walking. My doctor later in 2012 suggested Yoga to help me build healthier breathing patterns. I was a shallow breather and at times even held my breath. Learning how to breathe fully was and still is my practice.
I soon found myself back in my body and out of my head. The teacher guides us through a few rounds of the sun salutation. I start to flow and move. I give myself permission to breathe deeply with each pose. Beginning to feel the energy from the other students. We are all moving together in a flow state. My lungs begin to open and I feel free at this moment. My heart is beating faster and I feel alive. My eyes in a soft gaze and feeling very present in my body. Breathing. The class is instructed to come back to Tadasana mountain pose. Where we started the practice. Hands in prayer. I am tired yet energized. The invitation is to do one single Om to end the practice.
I stand tall. Inhaling and Exhaling to OM. Loud and complete I honor the light within me. I am perfect, exactly as I am. Namaste