The last time I took a yoga class was my freshman year of college; (does that even really count)? Squinting under the gymnasium lights, I felt like I was in a dentist’s chair. I became so anxious I had trouble finishing the “meditative session,” gulping air as quietly as possible while everyone around me seemed half-asleep. The experience became a joke with my family and friends: only I would feel anxious doing yoga!
My redemption was Carol Shwidock’s restorative yoga class. To put it succinctly: take a spa day with the girls, add a little self-guided meditation and voila! Deep relaxation, only you are in control of working out your physical (and emotional) kinks. Or, as Carol puts it, “Welcome yourself to yourself.”
After a brisk warm-up, we were led through several relaxation poses, including my favorite, the child. What I found so magical about the experience was that we were encouraged to observe our behavior–not judge it. For instance, was our mind quiet or busy? How were we breathing?
I became aware of my heartbeat and the tingle in my fingertips, but not from a place of fear. I was a voyager in my own skin. There was no right or wrong. Everything simply was. And there is no greater relief than experiencing total self-acceptance.
At the beginning of the session, Carol encouraged us to pick a word in our mind to embrace. My word was calm. It manifested itself through joy…joy at being there, joy at letting go, of accepting my flaws and observing the world, for once, without criticism. To let everything simply exist. To free my mind as a result. Beautiful.
I was reminded of the powerful Thomas Edison quote about success:
Imagine how much less progress we’d make if we gave up after experiencing panic, or pain or setbacks?
At the end of the session, we selected inspirational cards with messages that could, perhaps, match the “shift” we had experienced. My card said that the kingdom of heaven was inside me. I silently echoed Carol’s earlier sentiment, drawn from a poem: Every word we say reverberates through the universe. God is within us all, and when we express unkind thoughts toward ourselves or others, we are distancing ourselves from that deeper love.
Fortunately, that love is as accessible as we choose it to be…
To learn more about Carol’s work, visit Harmony Yoga .