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Articles by Amelia Michaels

Curiosity and Impermanence, June 2021

Part of the beauty of the human body is its capacity to change; nothing is permanent. Some of the change is sudden, obvious, and major; acute injuries, accidents, stressful events (both physical and emotional). But much of this change is so slow, it’s unnoticeable. Many of the cells in your body completely regenerate every seven-ten years. Each day, you walk several thousand more steps. You experience new emotions, have new conversations, and take in new information through all five senses. You draw in and expel air thousands of times per day. You should never expect your practice to be the same each day, because it’s always a new body that’s participating!

One of the greatest lessons (and challenges) in Yoga is meeting your body where it is. The first step to take inventory and ask questions. Be curious about how that difficult conversation created tension in your neck. Notice how a joyful experience gave you greater capacity in your breath and brings a lift to your chest. Understand that the hormones released in stressful events will have an effect on your physical body. Where do you carry your tension? Where do those difficult feelings settle? Do you notice a change in your strength or flexibility?

Labeling and identifying these factors in your practice is the easy part. The more difficult challenge is to reserve judgement, especially when these experiences in your body are limiting.

The last year has created immeasurable stress for practically everyone, and you shouldn’t expect your practice to remain unaffected. You may have been away from your mat completely, or even if you’ve been on Zoom at home, you may find yourself having a fantastically different experience upon returning to the studio.

You may find it necessary to take a modification in a pose, perhaps in a way that you’ve never needed to before. Instead of viewing a modification as an inconvenience, something to be judged as “less than” your usual standard, embrace it as a learning opportunity. What can you gain from that experience? What do you notice about the support of a blanket when folded in a new way? When one part of your pose is supported, where else can you flourish and grow? You might even learn that you prefer to practice in this new way!

When we are curious about the daily and hourly changes in our body, we can celebrate and be grateful for the joy of discovery in our practice.

Finding Your Roots, May 2021

Do you remember what first brought you to yoga? Why did you decide to roll out a mat and join a class? And why do you keep returning, day after day, week after week? Do you always come to class with the same intention? As your practice changes and develops through the years, your reason for showing up each day changes as well. But over time, you may see some patterns and find yourself called to a handful of consistent reasons, ideas, or intentions that keep you grounded in your practice. These Intentions are your roots.

Much like the hidden roots of a tree, Intentions are the unseen, private aspects and philosophies that drive your practice, and from which, all your poses grow. When you begin to examine and connect to these Intentions, you may find that your practice becomes more personal. You discover that the same pose practiced with a different Intention is a different experience altogether! Focusing on this Intention can also bring your attention back when it inevitably wanders during class.

For me, setting an Intention is the most important part of preparing for my class. It’s just as essential as gathering my props and making sure I’m hydrated. Before the first pose, I take a quiet moment, and consider, why am I here today? What do I hope to get out of these next ninety minutes? What part of my body needs a little extra love and attention? Are there any emotions, principles, or ideas that are speaking to me?

After a few deep breaths, I settle upon an answer to one of these questions and take a breath or two to “invite” that intention in. It’s a concept I can focus on and guide my poses for the day, and when my mind wanders, I bring it back to that Intention. Occasionally, these questions all come up blank, and I’m not sure what makes this day special at all! Rather than worry myself about not being able to come up with anything symbolic or significant, I go back to my roots…the biggest, deepest ones. I bring to mind what first brought me to yoga. I can always fall back on those strong, recurring themes in my practice to keep me mindful and present.

The next time you settle in for your practice, take a moment to invite an Intention in, and begin to find your own roots.