We ground down into our palms, raise our knees off of our mats and lift our hips toward the ceiling. Legs straightening. The first time, actually almost every time, I come into a downward facing dog I feel stiff. My body longs for softness so I bend my knees a little, paddle out my feet by reaching one heel at a time towards the mat. Left heel down, right leg bends; right heel down, left leg bends. Left heel, right heel. The slow movements feel good as I sense my calves stretching and releasing. Stiffness relaxing.
“Don’t move during this one,” my teacher says to the room full of inverted V’s dressed in colourful leggings. I want to ignore her, but I don’t.
“Sometimes it is harder to be still than to move,” she says.
My legs are almost shaking with the desire to bend as she says this. I’m longing to stretch up onto tippy toes and hear the cracks of my joints. The stillness is driving me crazy. But it’s not a new feeling. It happens almost every day, not just on my yoga mat. That pull to be doing, even if it’s just having my phone in hand, checking things that are inconsequential. I think as a mother of little ones I have grown so used to moving that it has become my body’s preferred state; when I am still, really still, I feel off balance. Stillness feels foreign to me.
Maybe it’s because stillness forces me to stop being in control for just a moment. It opens me up to the possibility that I was, in fact, never in control in the first place. Stillness forces me to notice myself, it brings my awareness to the present. It can make me feel small.
Or maybe I can let it make me feel big.
When I sit, or stand, lie, or walk in stillness I am fighting against that urge to do something, anything. When I am still I am not trying to make something happen. I’m not looking for insight or new ideas. I become shapeable. Like clay on the potter’s wheel.
I want more of this stillness – not the kind where I zone out in front of Netflix or a good book, but the kind that opens my heart up for receiving. It’s going to take some practice, though. To get used to the immediate sensations of boredom, of uselessness, of eery quiet.
“Let’s stay here for a few more breaths,” my instructor says. “ A little longer than you’d like.”
Stillness is about the challenge. To be in the uncomfortable tension without trying to find release.
To Just. Be. Still.