I spent two mornings this week teaching yoga classes at my son’s school to help the students relax and breathe before their end of grade tests. At the end we all sat and counted our breaths and thought of something that makes us very happy with our eyes closed. Whenever I cue my adults to close their eyes in a posture during class, I always catch one or two who just won’t do it. I’ve even seen people who will not close their eyes in savasana, the final resting pose, where all we do is lie on our mats and pretend to be dead. So I told the kids that it is okay to close your eyes because we will all have our eyes closed and not to worry that you’re the only one or that someone is looking at you. I took a little peek near the end to see if it looked like the kids were relaxing and I spotted one little girl with her eyes open looking right at me. It made me sad. I wondered what it was about her that would not allow her to trust enough to sit in her school gym with her teachers and fellow students and just close her eyes and think happy thoughts for a few moments. Then I realized that it made me sad because I see myself in her.
I can close my eyes in a group of people, yes, but I have that same inability to trust that I saw in her wide-opened eyes.
So this morning I decided to get on my mat and practice yoga with my eyes closed. The whole time! And this was not a gentle practice with a lot of sitting, kneeling and lying down. I decided I was going to try a full out Vinyasa class with lots of Sun Salutations, lunging and balancing postures. Of course, I thought to myself that I will probably end up opening my eyes when I feel unsteady, but as I got deeper into the practice, I felt like I never wanted to open my eyes again. This blind trust of myself was invigorating and made the postures seem more meaningful.
I started with Sun Salutations, jumping up and back, and realized that I wasn’t exactly sure where my mat was going to be underneath my feet when I landed. Sometimes I would think I was straight on the mat and find that I was turned completely sideways. But I used the edges of the mat as my guide and boundary, and when I got off, I just got right back where I belonged. All I had to do was readjust and I was okay. After a few rounds of this flow, I realized that my breathing was not attached to my movements, so I focused in on my breath even harder. When your eyes are closed, your breath sounds louder, crisper and more relevant.
At points, I thought about leaving a few postures out that would be hard to do with my eyes closed, like Side Plank, Headstand, Eagle and Dancer, but as I settled into trusting myself and my surroundings, I decided to go for it. I was clumsy and awkward in many postures. I fell and stumbled lots of times. I kept thinking about how silly I probably looked, but it was fun and different and I didn’t care.
As graceless as I felt, I was surprised at how effortless some poses were that I thought I would completely fall out of or struggle with. It occurred to me that it was easier than I thought it would be because I have been dedicated and working on this practice for a really long time!
Lately I have been asking myself if my trust radar is lighting up because of God-given intuition to protect me or if my hardwiring from some pretty bad breeches of trust has made it difficult to close my eyes and trust anyone. Unfortunately, today’s practice didn’t answer my question or guide me toward any firm answers, but it did remind me that I can trust myself sometimes. Those times only come after lots of mindfulness, practice and dedication. I can close my eyes and jump in when my heart is telling me to. And when my heart is telling me that I need to adjust my sails, I can use my boundaries and limits to help me get back on course.
Trust is risky. Trust is scary. Trust is awkward. Trust can make us feel foolish. But one of the most beautiful sights I think I could ever see would be to look with trust into the eyes of someone who is looking with trust right back at me.