There is a Zen proverb that says, “Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes, and the grass grows by itself.”
The Kenai Peninsula is waking up, shaking off six months of snow and it’s ready to make some noise. Birds chirp at the earlier and earlier morning sunrise. Green smells hide in the ground, ready to spread across Alaska’s terrain. The land exhales at the top of a dawning-day stretch, and I’m right there alongside it.
Spring is my favorite time to shape my body into different asanas, or yoga poses. It’s down dog in the morning, tucking my toes and pushing down through my palms while I wait for my coffee to brew, or an arm stand in the early afternoon, reinvigorating a work day by throwing my toes up, up, up toward the ceiling. Or I spend my evening flowing through a practice alongside other yogis at one of the local studios. I twist and turn, balancing my body neither here or there, but somewhere right in between the two.
My bones may creak and crack while I do it, but that’s just the sound of them springing into action, thawing from a winter spent freezing in the snow. My body warms, summoning spring and anticipating growth.
I planted my seeds in the spring of 2008, when I was 16 years old and took my first yoga class. I was young and flexible, so it could have been one of my better yoga experiences, but my mind was loud. I tried to let the grass grow, but the ever-present roar of the lawn mower drowned it out.
It was uncomfortable, staring at myself in the mirror with sweaty hair clinging to my face and sweat-drenched clothes stuck to my skin.
It was difficult to be strong and still on my right foot, balancing my weight and my insecurities as I tried to keep my focus on the body, my body, in the mirror.
It was impossible to keep my eyes from wandering and judging those around me, comparing each movement they made against my own, for better or worse.
But I continued my practice, I repeated a lengthy “om” again and again and the lawn mower grew quieter and quieter.
“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction,” said Cynthia Occelli.
I have no idea who Occelli is, but a good friend who doubles as my all-time favorite yoga instructor sent me her quote when I asked her for inspiration on a particularly morose afternoon.
Week after week, in spite of those morose afternoons and some dark, frozen mornings, I would return to my yoga mat. I would put myself through the mental and physical torture of a yoga practice, hoping to find inner peace and strength. I found my fingers reaching high into the sky, or my legs shooting back and straight. Then, I would fall. Either my face would hit the ground with a thump or my back would lie on the floor as I struggled to catch my breath. Repeat and fall. Repeat and fall until repeat and hold. I grew stronger.
I was able to hold a crow pose, with my shins pressed against my upper arms so that the balls of my feet can float into the air, with enough steadiness to take in the scene around me. Catching my own eyes in the mirror, I smiled. Looking around at the balancing bodies around me, I smiled.
I never found inner peace in yoga class, but I did find the ability to grow strong. I never quieted my mind completely, but I found the ability to think good thoughts, to root for those around me, even when their feet are soaring up into the sky and mine are stuck on the ground.
There’s no fireweed adorning Alaska’s fields yet, but the seeds are there and spring has only just begun.
Reach Kat Sorensen at email@example.com