I just got back from a trip to beautiful St. Martin. It has become our yearly little getaway, my husband and I…an opportunity to reconnect, relax and be together. It is a strange experience to go back to the same place several times in a row. I felt it very strongly this time as we checked into an identical room as we had the previous two years and then headed to our favorite beach. It felt like a continuation of the last trip but yet a whole year had passed in the blink of an eye. Some things felt so familiar that it was hard not to take them for granted.
As I practiced Yoga on the beach each day, I connected to the idea of the comfort we take in the habitual spaces in our bodies and in our lives and the natural reaction we have to sometimes take that for granted. Therefore, during the trip I worked very hard to appreciate the subtle changes and yet take comfort in what felt comfortable and at home both in my practice and all around me.
Upon my return I found a new appreciation for the wonderful routine I have in my life; walking my children to the bus each morning and teaching my classes…it is so easy to take it all for granted and when we do that, it makes it harder to notice, let alone appreciate the subtle changes or inspiration we have in our lives each day. If I wasn’t sitting at my kitchen table as I do each morning to eat breakfast, I may not have gotten to see the first hummingbird arrive at our brand new feeder. The sameness of every day with some subtle inspiration mixed in.
I asked my students last week to do the same, to take comfort and find gratitude in the sameness (sometimes we take for granted what is working in our bodies until it isn’t anymore) while also appreciating the subtle differences they created in their bodies. What the physical practice offers us through sameness and repetition is tiny little changes that over time build up to something bigger.
Sun Salutations are a perfect example of this; we do them pretty much every time we step onto our mats. We take comfort in the sameness of them, yet they can feel different each time. Perhaps walking the hands or the feet a little closer together or further apart in Downward Dog can create a tiny change that makes the sameness feel different.
We explored connecting the Breath fully to the Movement to help create those subtle changes because the breath offers the chance to move through points of discomfort on the mat and create change . As we connected to the Inhale reaching the arms over the head and then Exhaled through our forward fold the rhythm began. We Inhaled as we found our flat back in preparation to Exhale fully as we lowered through Chaturanga. The Deep Inhale that accompanied our High Cobra and release of the breath in Downward Dog reminded us how different the same can be and how sameness is a gift.
As my husband and I parked our car at Happy Bay (our favorite beach pictured above) and walked the 10 minute path through the brush to get there, we were so excited for the sameness; in fact we hoped for it. As we came up to the final trees, that allow the view of the water to peak through them, I took a deep Inhale and as we stepped onto the powdery sand I looked around and Exhaled with Gratitude. It was all the sameness I had been wishing for; the deserted beach, the beautiful water, the line of palm trees and the beautiful cliffs on either side…and yet there was just a touch of subtle changes from a year gone by …enough to remind me to be Grateful for those too. Namaste