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autumn returns to the mossy forestAutumn.  The first of October.  Summer has come and gone here in the Pacific Northwest, although I am hopeful for a few more sunny days.  There are still tomatoes on the vine, wanting to ripen before the first frost.  It could happen…  people who live here tell me there is no regular pattern for first frost or winter severity.  It changes every year, they say, and no one can predict any thing.  Ah.  There’s that lesson again…. day by day, be with what is.

Rain has me longing to stay in and curl up with blankets and espresso and books or computers.  Today, I am  blessedly free to do just that. It is a good opportunity to get caught up on all the things that I set aside in the busyness of summer.  This blog, for example….. really, no post since July?  Well, and so it is.  Today I return.  We can only ever begin from this moment, exactly where we are, exactly as we are.

I was reminded of this recently as I was browsing through the book The Heart of Yoga by T.K.V. Desikachar.   In yoga, he says, we must begin from where we are.  Learning an asana (posture) requires practice and attention.   We will not come to the practice as beginners and suddenly be able to twist ourselves easily into a pretzel shape, nor stand on our head for 10 minutes right off the bat.  But neither of those things are really the point.  To really embrace yoga, we begin where we are.  Whether we are new to yoga, or have been practicing for years, we are all still beginners.  Every day, we must begin with what we can do, and go forward from there.

Here’s what I have discovered about that: In order to begin where I am, I must accept myself exactly AS I am.  The key to changing anything is to first be honest with what IS, and to allow it to be exactly what it is, preferably without judgement.

Perhaps you sit to meditate and discover that a cross-legged position creates pain in your body.  Or maybe you move in to a yoga flow and discover your breath is shallow and difficult.  Instead of pushing through the pain, instead of denying the reality and attempting something you are not ready for, simply observe.  Ah, so.  I see, there is pain here, tension there. These are important things to notice.  When there is pain, tension, or shortness of breath, modifications can be made.  If pain is all you can feel in a posture, then you are not quite ready for that posture.  Back up, try something different, ease your way in that direction.   A posture should have qualities of ease, steadiness, and attention.

Desikachar also says that the breath is the intelligence of the body. This I love. Wisdom rides on our breath.  Let your breath be your guide.  If you can breathe in a posture, you can work with it, and explore it, and learn to link movement with breath.  If you cannot breathe, if your breath is short, or held because of pain, notice that, and let it be a cue to back off.

Pay attention, accept what is, and breathe.  These are simple guidelines.  I keep them in mind today as I move once again into my yoga practice.    It doesn’t matter if I practiced yesterday, or if I last practiced 3 months ago.  Every day is a new return, a new beginning.

That’s a beautiful thing.

What is happening with your practice today?