Last week when I taught my Roots of Empathy class, I asked my 3rd and 4th graders what they think comforts a baby. When they came up blank, I shared that when my daughter was tiny, turning on the hair dryer immediately calmed her down. The gentle hum of the hair dryer sounds very similar to the hushing sound babies hear in utero. As we develop-- from infant to toddler to child to teenager to adult--- finding the thing that comforts us, brings us that calm, gets more and more elusive. For me, the one constant thing that's offered me comfort like this over the last two decades is Yoga.
But every couple of years, I get slightly dormant in my Yoga practice. I practice less, and I'm not fully there mentally when I do practice. When I come out of hibernation from my Yoga strike, it is like I've discovered a whole new world. The rush comes right back!
When I am doing a regular Yoga practice, I feel so much happier. My body needs it. I have tight, tight muscles, maybe from my years of swimming or maybe from my newfound love of running, or maybe because I'm an uptight neurotic human. Regardless, I have a body that needs Yoga to stay pain free (maybe everyone does).
My mind needs it. I am a person whose brain goes ALL the time. Not in a bad way, although sometimes the activity can make me feel simultaneously like throwing up and passing out. I very rarely take time to settle. I need a place to quiet down. That happens for me in the yoga room. My body becomes bigger than my brain and my breath becomes louder than my internal voice(s).
Spiritually, I need yoga. It makes me happy, hopeful, joyful. It is a place where I feel there is something bigger, better, stronger, than me. I feel lighter, held in a way that I rarely feel in other areas of my life. Yoga is my gateway drug to joy.
The joy doesn't come right away, except in the form of endorphins (which are definitely a kind of joy). It comes over time. You start to appreciate you body more, your strength, your flexibility, your intention in your practice. Then you notice how you are actually a little bit quiet mentally in Savasana. Oh, what a relief to have that peace. And then, maybe after years, or decades, you notice that your heart sings a little bit when you practice. All layers combine to bring a sense of joy. And then, for some random reason, you take a break from Yoga. You have an affair with Crossfit or spinning or knitting! But when you come back, the feelings are all there. And it doesn't take long until you're addicted. Again.