September 2009

Off the Mat

After my surgeries, when I was too sore and stiff to move, a friend told me a story of her Tai Chi teacher who never missed a day of practice, even while hospitalized, because she would practice in her mind. So, I decided to try it with yoga. Unable to even think about stepping on the mat, I’d lie in bed at night and picture myself moving through my practice. I felt my body as it had been before surgery—strong and flexible. In my mind’s eye, I’d see my arms sweep overhead at the beginning of a sun salutation and my body bend forward gracefully as I touched the floor. Arms flexing, they supported me as I jumped back into a plank position. My back was supple, my chest expansive as I glided into upward-facing dog. In that way, I’d flow through my yoga practice. Imagining the feeling of my limbs working in concert with my trunk, my muscles engaged, my chest open. The best part was that after I’d had these yoga practices in my head as I drifted to sleep—body bruised, swollen, stiff, propped up with a half dozen pillows—I’d often dream of yoga. The line between visualization and dream blurred by handstands.