This month at Evolve Yoga we’re focusing on the idea of vitality. When I first began thinking of how I’d weave this theme throughout my classes, I considered making our yoga practice quite vigorous to increase our blood flow, working with poses that are particularly strength-building–all that good stuff. And then I got sick. And felt anything but vital. And took a few days off. And then an interesting thing happened. As I prepared for my return to teaching, and to the world-as-we-know-it in general (you know, leaving the house), I felt a very subtle awareness that I had, without knowing it, been tuning out from feeling while I’d been sick. The main thing I teach in all my classes–to feel–had little by little faded from my own daily life as I sniffled, rubbed my nose raw, and coughed (and coughed, and coughed). It is likely that each day I numbed just a little more, and for good reason. There’s a time and a place for turning down the sensitivity meter in life. This is a coping mechanism that works for us humans.

But as I returned to teaching, I pondered how many of us numb this way on a daily basis. Imagine hating a job where you spend 40+ hours, being in a relationship that’s slowly falling apart, trying to nurture whining toddlers as a full-time parent, grieving the death of a loved one, and on and on… and of course it’s not hard at all for most of us to imagine situations like these, because we have been there, or are there. We all spend quite a bit of time out of awareness. The problems begin when we spend too much time here. When we can no longer remember how to feel, when we lose connections with others, when addictions form, and when we feel anything but vitality most of the time, with or without diagnosed mood disorders.

We already know that exercise and movement increase vitality. That part will take care of itself. What is it that yoga can offer that’s special about vitality? Quite simply, it can offer our increased ability to feel–whether the movement is gentle, vigorous, or anything in between. As a matter of fact, yoga can be practiced without movement at all. Yoga allows us to be more awake and tuned in so that we don’t miss the vitality that already exists within us. While I often feel that my teachings boil down to only a handful of simple (different from easy!) ideas, I decided to focus my classes for the next couple of weeks on practicing feeling as a means towards vitality. The more we feel, the less we need any kind of super-charged vitality-inducers. When we have sorrows within, feeling them is the only way to move through them, and when we have joys within, feeling them allows us to enjoy what life has to offer, feeling vital and alive. A win either way.

A honeybee, drawing nectar from a blossom, bats its wings at 11,400 times per minute. Salmon swim as much as thousand miles upstream, or more, in order to spawn. An ant will carry twenty times its weight to serve a colony. This same drive, all but invisible, pervades everything in the natural world. The world we live in is little more than an endless and vibrant expression of energy. —Rod Stryker, The Four Desires

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