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On Yoga, Spring Sunshine, and Pleasure

It is early spring, and I am sitting in the sun. Specifically, I am sitting in a camping chair on the sidewalk in front of my South-facing South Philly rowhouse, because my tiny backyard doesn’t get any sun at this time of year, and it’s only warm enough to sit outside if I’m directly in the sun. For these brief few weeks when I am longing for warmth, I can even forgive the total lack of trees on my block, whose sidewalks are too narrow to be granted street trees from the city. Today, the urban heat dome is my friend.

My shoulders are warm. My neck is warm. The hair on the top of my head is warm. A pleasantly cool breeze sidles past, winding between my legs like a hungry cat. I reach over and stroke the lavender plant I put in yesterday, in the big pot with the bulbs that will soon be tulips and hyacinth and crocuses and alliums. I hold my fingers to my face and inhale: the soothing scent of lavender plus a faint spark that I think of as green, the smell of growing things and spring.

I close my eyes and breathe in, a full, deep breath, filling my belly and my chest, expanding my ribs. The sun on my neck is almost hot. I breathe out, slowly pushing all the air out of my body. In, out. Feel the breath as it comes in and out. Feel the sun. Feel a finger of breeze on my cheek, my toes wiggling in my shoes, the fabric arms of the chair under my elbows.

I open my eyes and enjoy the blue of our large recycling bin and the black of the matching trash container, next to the pot of flowers and the beginnings of flowers. I am glad that I painted the iron fence on our steps. I wish that I didn’t still need to paint the matching grill over the basement window. I have never owned a home before. These maintenance activities both thrill and bore me. They’re fun now, but I have a sense that in a few years, they may be less enchanting.

I smile, mentally stepping back from that unfurling ribbon of thought. I don’t need to plan for that chore right now. I am taking a moment. I am sitting in the sun. It is early spring and the sky is blue and the sun is warm and there is a lavender plant next to me that I put in yesterday and I am so very pleased with all of this that I am taking the time to enjoy it.

I find that if I don’t really pause to enjoy an experience, to notice and appreciate it in glorious detail, it may simply slip past me. I could sit outside in the sun all morning and never really take it in. Nope. I’m gonna enjoy my enjoyable experiences. I am going to appreciate the spring sunshine and smell the fresh lavender. It is so easy for the human brain to take good things for granted, and only notice the problems. I am training my brain to notice the good things, too, and to bring this same openness to the harder stuff.

Yoga teaches me how to do this. As I practice yoga, I focus on my breath and my body. I work to feel sensation. I devote time and attention to acknowledging the experience of the moment. Where does this pose feel amazing, and where is it uncomfortable? Can I lift higher, flow lower? Can I find my center more precisely? Can I align my shoulders more completely? Can I inhale deeper into my belly? Can I relax my tongue? When that ribbon of thought about yesterday or tomorrow or what if or do that starts to pull me away, can I notice it, release it, and return to my breath and my body?

I love the movement of yoga, the stillness of yoga, the poses and the physicality of the practice. And you will occasionally catch me pulling out poses in public, especially if you run into me at the airport after a long flight, but I usually save them for private, whether in the studio or at home.

The mental habits of yoga, I find I can practice anytime, anywhere. So I do, because it is so pleasurable. I sit here in the spring sunshine, and my yoga practice deepens my enjoyment of this moment.

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