Learning flexibility of body and mind

By Alexis Deaton
EBS Staff Writer

I roll out my trusty, 8-pound mat on the floor with the remnants of a hectic day still lingering. Grabbing a yoga block, I take a couple of breaths to center myself. I begin to release my habitual processing and over-analyzing.

Propped up on a block, I take a seat on my mat. Sitting still for a few breaths I hone in on my intention of being more flexible. Closing my eyes, this intention whispers around in my mind. I hear the sounds of additional mats rolling out, and the audible calming breaths of others fill the studio.

“Aloha, monkeys! Who’s ready to bend?” asks Tara Michelle, today’s instructor. Michelle is a certified Hatha Yoga teacher and knows the art of bringing ease and joy to the studio. After greetings and introductions, Michelle settles in, her boisterous energy taking a back seat.

Everyone in attendance is seated, ready for instruction. Michelle starts the class with the idea of taking your “seat,” not only in practice as a student, but also as a student of life. In the seat – or role we occupy – we’re given the opportunity to learn, grow, observe, and honor the seats of others. Our seat changes from moment to moment, but these opportunities are constant and ever-present.

Yoga is a practice of uniting the mind, spirit and body. In the most basic sense, this is achieved by using various breathing techniques or “pranayama” meditation and postures, or “asanas.”

The most commonly conjured image of asana is a person, completely unfazed, with a leg wrapped behind their head. This image leads to a common, deterring thought: “I’m not flexible enough to do yoga.”

However, there’s no need to be physically flexible, vegan, or even Buddhist to practice yoga. You only need to be mentally flexible, open enough to receive its benefits.

“Just slowing down your brain and nervous system, to create a bit of inner calm, is yoga,” says Jen Avery, a certified yoga instructor and owner of Big Sky’s Yoga Stone studio. “If the desire is there to incorporate poses, you can increase strength, flexibility and balance. This integrity of the body, in conjunction with peace of mind, assists us in the face of our demanding and challenging lives.”

In today’s seemingly relentless chaos, bringing in more peace of mind is a welcoming thought.

There are several considerations when you approach your first class. The Big Sky community has many knowledgeable instructors who can assist the start of your journey.

Callie Stolz, owner of Santosha Wellness Center recommends attending an all-levels course to learn the basics of postures from a teacher who is experienced with beginners.

Not learning the basics, Stolz adds, can lead to injury and an inability to listen to the body. She says it’s also important to inform the teacher you’re just starting out, in order to get the appropriate guidance. Initial benefits can include increased strength and flexibility, as well as the ability to quiet the mind.

As Michelle’s guided practice circled through a myriad of poses, my earlier intention of flexibility feels close and deepened. This intention was not only for my physical body on the mat, but also for my mental state off the mat.

In whatever seat I may occupy, I remain open to new perspectives and have the flexibility to let go of trivial matters and enjoy the present moment.

My question to you is, are you flexible enough to take your seat?