Yesterday, on a walk through my neighborhood, I saw an apple tree reaching up toward a winter-white sky. The clouds hung low and dense. I took a deep drink of cold air, tried to relax my body as it shivered in the cold, and continued to walk.
Over time I noticed a smattering of light across the road. Slowly the sky transformed before my eyes. White dissolved to pale blue with patches of cerulean. As the clouds grew gauzy the landscape began to glow and form shadows. I stood still and watched as the sun burned its way through, warming my face. The dark branches of the trees looked elegant and fearless in the changing light.
I thought of a recent yoga session with one of my clients. She had been feeling trepidation about an upcoming appointment with a new doctor. I helped her into a restorative heart-opening pose called supta baddha konasana. Once she was comfortable I asked whether she’d like to try working with the physical sensation of anxiety in her body.
With guidance, she began to relax her body more deeply and focus on her breath. I suggested that she breathe space into the region around her heart.
The Buddhist meditation teacher Pema ChÃ¶drÃ¶n writes, “When you begin to touch your heart or let your heart be touched, you begin to discover that it’s bottomless, that it doesn’t have any resolution, that this heart is huge, vast, and limitless. You begin to discover how much warmth and gentleness is there, as well as how much space.”
After several minutes of peaceful, mindful breathing, my client described her fog as lifting slightly. It became lighter, softer, and more permeable, she said. The feeling did not go away, but there was room around it for her breath, and for tranquility and awareness of the present moment. Later, when she went to her doctor’s appointment she was able to use that experience of working with the breath to remain calm and compassionate toward herself.
Breath creates freedom and spaciousness. Quiet stillness allows for serene witnessing. Relaxation allows tight muscles to release their grip. The combination makes it possible to be aware of intense feelings without becoming constricted.
My morning walk, under a January sky, offered up a beautiful metaphor for this process. Clouds, like feelings can temporarily obscure the sun. But our warmth, wisdom, and courage are always there, like the sun, just waiting to shine.
ABOUT NATALIE ENGLER, RYT
Natalie Engler, RYT is a National Yoga Alliance Registered Yoga Teacher who offers private yoga and small group classes to women at all stages of the fertility process. Her approach synthesizes ongoing studies in Iyengar-influenced and Vinyasa yoga with immersion in Restorative Yoga, which she learned as part of her 200-hour yoga teacher certification with Bo Forbes, PsyD, creator of Integrative Yoga Therapeutics.
Natalie has been an avid yoga practitioner for 20 years and a yoga teacher for six years. Through a dedicated personal practice and experience teaching individuals and groups, Natalie has witnessed the potent effects of Restorative Yoga on a wide range of issues. She is honored to be able to share this practice with women at the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health.
In addition teaching yoga, Natalie is a wellness coach and health writer who has written for Harvard Medical International, Reuters Health, the Massachusetts Medical Society and Harvard Health Publications. She has been quoted in the Boston Globe, Yoga Journal, Parents Magazine, and Conceive Magazine.