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Reading and Yoga: A Metaphor

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Years ago, too many to count, I learned how to read. I don’t remember the process, but I eventually became a reading teacher and began to understand how it happens. Children who are read to and know the alphabet when they enter school are very likely to be successful readers. Usually reading is taught as a skill through about third grade. Then the focus shifts. The skill is now part of a student’s toolbox of learning. Now instead of learning to read, students are asked to read to learn.

As my personal yoga practice has progressed over the past eight years, I realize that a very similar process has taken place. How vividly I remember my first down dog. heels high in the air, hamstrings screaming, head up looking around to see how others were doing. I can now imagine that child sitting in a reading circle marveling at the abilities of others to accomplish this challenging task.

Learning how to breathe in yoga is almost like learning the alphabet. I do not believe I could practice yoga as I do now without knowing the basics of good breathing and the variety of breathing techniques available to me. Now, breath is a basic part of my practice, the impetus for all my movements, in the same way letters are the basis of all words.

Learning the asanas is like taking the alphabet, making words. Then I learned about vinyasa and it became the story from the words and sentences. However, as my practice progressed, there were so many stories and so many voices telling them that I became confused, but continued listening to the stories and practicing the words and sentences.

Then, I came to that point where I needed to quit “learning yoga” and start learning from and with yoga. Luckily as this point, I attended my first Iowa City Yoga Festival. Talk about lots of stories and lots of voices, overwhelming and joyous. But somehow my heart heard the voice that would take me the next steps in my yoga adventure.

Over the past three years I have changed from doing yoga to practicing yoga to being yoga. Yes, I still practice, however my practice is the same story told every day in the same voice (mine). As with anything in life, the moments of my practice bring me new understandings each practice. Yes, that’s what happened to me in my reading life as well. Reading is the means to the end of understanding the world around, within and beyond me. Yoga is the same.

I am a yogini because I engage in the physical practice six days a week, I spend time at the end of my practice in quiet stillness to let my heart, body and soul appreciate the gift of movement. I take what I learn about myself on the mat and find that it enhances and enriches the moments of my day.
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