Watering the Roots

In our part of the Shenandoah Valley, it’s common to have dry spells when the garden plants hang limp in the afternoon, even when I’ve watered them that morning. Leaves droop or die and drop off under the relentless sun. When those dry spells finally break and it rains hard enough to soak the roots, a wave of green washes across the yard, flowers bloom, and those same wilted garden plants respond with new growth.

There are times when I experience a similar phenomenon in my yoga practice. Life’s demands run high and I have way more tasks on my to-do list than time to get things done. Depleted and parched, I easily get lost in the details of pressing demands and forget what’s really important. At those times, yoga can feel like just one more item on my to-do list, a daily commitment I push through to get on to the next thing.

But, at some point, I remember that there are deeper possibilities here. Even one breath taken in with awareness and let go with a sigh can help me to shift out of “doing mode” into being more present to my experience. And, once I’m present, I can start to breathe, relax, and feel. Then I’m really practicing yoga—my yoga—the yoga my body needs at that moment.

This kind of yoga occurs to me as time to water my roots. To do this, I need to consciously slow my movements down, which can be a challenge when my nervous system is in high gear. It takes paying attention to how my body feels, noticing the tight places and choosing to breathe into them. It takes listening closely to the nearly imperceptible urge to stretch in some new or creative way. Mostly, it takes being willing to break out of my ruts and routines to respond to the moment in real time.

I have the good fortune to be living with my husband as he works on a book about Swami Kripalu’s teachings. This means that I get to read each chapter as it goes through one iteration after another. Many facets of this work-in-progress have touched my practice, but the one that has spoken to me most profoundly describes the essence of yoga as “a process of forging a direct connection to the energetic core of your being, opening to its transformative power, aligning with its creative intelligence, channeling that energy into your life, and enjoying the sense of peace and expansiveness it bestows.”

That description of yoga is so different from my rushed, mechanical, got-to-check-this-practice-off-my-list routine. When I practice in this way, yoga waters my roots as surely as the most recent storm watered the garden. And once the roots have been watered, transformation, creativity, connection, and a sense of wholeness are sure to follow.

Danna Faulds is the author of six books of poetry and the memoir, Into the Heart of Yoga.

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