FYI: Practicing yoga in the dark is hard.
It’s like that moment in a yoga class, when you’re twisted into some awkward standing balance sequence when your calf is already on FIRE and the teacher calmly suggests, “If you really want a challenge, try closing your eyes.” So you do, and you fall – magnificently – and you half-giggle, half-shrivel inside because while you’re slightly embarrassed, you don’t want everyone to see you taking yourself so seriously.
Yoga in the dark is just like that – over and over again.
Tonight I found myself there. What began as a “bright idea” sunset yoga session quickly ended when the insanity of the pinks and the last bit of golden cloud lining tiptoed in to the next time zone, and I was left standing on my mat in total darkness.
My balance was shot. I literally felt like I was at sea – wind milling my arms to keep balance, digging in to the mat desperately with my toes, but to no avail. To be fair to the experience, it was not so much “yoga,” as a semi-choreographed “experiment in falling and flailing” in the darkness.
It wasn’t exactly what I’d been hoping for. The turn of yet another year just a few days off, and the questions of “Where am I headed?” and “what exactly am I doing with my life?” were playing round and round on my “Questions Sara Prefers to Discuss Over Wine” record. They fired in every synapse in my body, and dripped gooey reflection from my mind. Yoga seemed the best thing available to maybe-hopefully-pretty-please get some answers flowing out of me.
These are some of the darkest days of the year. How ironic that they coincide with a time so deeply entrenched in goal setting and renewal. Goals that are typically of the fixing, improving, and perfecting variety. Goals that are about changing toward a brighter, better ideal… and by the same virtue, goals that are about saying “I am not that,” or “I will no longer do that,” or “I no longer see value in that.” We draw a line in the sand, and we push these pieces of ourselves away – cut them from our fabric of self and leave them chained behind at 11:59pm, December 31st.
But where’s the integrity in that? And is it really that easy? The millions of broken New Year’s resolutions each year tell me maybe not. What happens to our goals when we’re distracted, when we stumble, when we lapse in to the leftover holiday cookies (not that I’m speaking from experience or anything)? We slink backwards in to our darkness… lamenting but justifying the fact that we’ve failed once again.
All this flashes through my head as I pitch sideways out of my lunge. I look around me for something to cure my balance… a teacher to tell me it’s okay to turn the lights on outside, an excuse to back out of this magnificent flailing performance. But that’s the caveat to a home practice – it’s just your mat, the moment, and the voice inside your head that whispers, "Stay."
I get this image in my head of a fortune cookie paper I re-found just earlier today. It has to be about 11 years old now… or older… it lives in a bobby pin box from when I was wearing my hair in a ballet bun years ago. It says:
“For light, go directly to the source of the light, not any reflections.”
So wise, so simple. So TIMELY. On our mats or off, and no matter the time of year, where do we draw from when the lights go out to get through our life’s practice? Let us not walk over to the wall and turn on the light switch, flooding our experience with artificiality. Let us not turn toward over-indulgence to block out discomfort. Let us not fall into metaphor of darkness as something to be avoided, but as something that very truly should be respected as half of our everything: the night to our day, the yin to our yang, the question to our sureness.
Imagine doing ourselves the honor of looking inwardly for this light rather than to outside distractions. We wouldn’t need compliments or approval from others – we already know our true worth. We wouldn’t train our bodies to rely on some super extreme diet – we would already know our beauty. The need to constantly plugged in to everyone and everything would ease – we could already see connectedness.
If we did this moment by moment, the days, then the weeks, then the months would pass in the creation of a new habit… one of turning inward toward the light, and finding the dearest teacher we will every meet: ourselves. A teacher that asks not only that we fall, but asks that we fall INTO the unknown, the scary, the questionable... the darkness.
This New Year, let’s resolve to fall a bit more. To find our light, and find more of it, as we fall with grace in to the darkness – falling with love, and not fear. Falling with grace, not perfection. The dark is not that scary (unless you are, in fact, afraid of the dark... in which case your proven options of success are to 1) find a cape, or 2) put your big girl panties on). Find that little voice inside you that encourages you to leap, dance, tiptoe, or boogie in to the unknown.
So that we can…
Shake it out.
The more we can get to know the darkness, the better we understand it. The more inwardly we know ALL of ourselves, the greater opportunity we have outwardly to expand. What better gift can we give ourselves, and the world?
We all have infinite love, infinite potential and infinite depth - each and every one of us. There's no more critical time than now to fully, deeply acknowledge that. So, here’s my challenge to you:
Go far, go deep.
Take your light there. Grow it.
Discover your full spectrum.
Paint the darkness with it…
After all, the world could really use some brighter colors.