I went camping this weekend at Bear Creek Lake State Park, here in Virginia. It’s one of those places that’s only about an hour’s drive, but feels like a real “away from it all” place. I must say, I love Virginia State Parks. They are well-maintained and beautifully laid out. It was really pleasant to get away, even though it rained a lot yesterday – enough that tent, um, “moisture” became a real problem.
Just a few minutes ago, my mother reminded me of the danger of lightning. I’m glad I didn’t think of it then, because I generally think of tents in the shelter of trees as safe, but it isn’t really. Ground currents can injure you. Anyway, like I said, glad I didn’t think of it, or I would have had an even harder time sleeping.
I love sleeping in tents, but it’s not terribly comfortable. Even with my light-weight inflatable sleeping bag pad, I get muscle cramps that demand movement, and when you’re on a slight incline, there just really aren’t that many comfortable positions.
Which brings me to Saturday morning, when I felt stiff and cranky. After coffee needs were met, I felt another craving – for yoga. I knew a little yoga would be just the thing to work out the kinks and help me start the day relaxed, open and aware.
I felt a little self-conscious, though. Wouldn’t it just look weird to do yoga out in the middle of a campground? I’d attempted a small practice a year before, but had only managed a couple of sun salutations before I felt too overcome by the idea people would see me and wonder what the heck I was doing.
I try not to let my still-pesky concern about what “other people think” (which is really a silly concept, because we can’t really know what other people think, and it’s not usually a helpful concern in any case) keep me from doing something that calls to my heart. Besides, all of my companions on the trip are well aware of my yoga practice, and anyone else has probably at least heard of yoga by now. It’s not really seen as a kooky thing. Again, not that it matters.
So I grabbed a blanket and my iPod, and used one of my favorite yoga soundtracks to help me draw a space for an internal, reflective practice. I faced into the woods and took a few moments to practice pranayama (yogic breathing), moving gradually into warming movements, sun salutations and standing postures.
Once I got going, it felt great. It felt so good to press my hands into the moist dirt in Down Dog – the blanket was too slippery – and I felt a real sense of connection to the earth. As I began to flow through postures, I realized that, in spite of my stiffer-than-usual muscles, I was floating into postures that often knock me right out of my meditative state, like Crow (an arm balance).
I have been practicing Crow for years, with little mastery. Usually, when I begin to float my feet off and feel like this time I’m finally getting it, my internal sense of balance shifts and I fall out of the pose. Yesterday, I lifted easily into the pose, kept my breathing steady, wobbled minimally, and landed lightly, sitting naturally back into a Hindi Squat. Looking back, it was a wonderful moment, but not in a, “Yeah, baby, I did it!” way. I simply felt present in my body and in the moment, and completely at ease.
After some leisurely stretches to work out a few more kinks, I took a few minutes of meditation, mostly keeping my eyes open and watching the lazy wave of the leaves high above. I felt grounded upon the earth, and the odd sensation that I was looking down into the leaves.
From start to end, it was less than 45 minutes of practice, but my perspective was completely different. I was comfortable in my own skin again, and more open to the experiences of the day, with all their pleasures and challenges.