Let us not forget into this new year, the simple quote:

move a muscle, change a feeling…

In the coming months, while you are practicing yoga, think about what it feels like to move a muscle. This elementary skill is one many learned without awareness, the day they placed a wobbly foot in front of the other.  When we practice or teach yoga it can become such a rhythm, we forget the notes it took to play the song.  Every time your right leg supports your whole body – your heart, your organs, a brain – it is something to celebrate.

photo by Isaac D. boy with trees

One day while teaching to youth at a drop-in facility, a student told me all he needed was a “mountain and some trees.”  What he was telling me was he wanted to just practice Mountain and Tree pose.  Although these poses consist of very little muscle movement or technical skill, it was his yoga. To him, yoga was standing consciously tall, shoulders down and back, chest open to the world. To him, yoga was head forward, arms reaching for the stars and one leg bent – one leg holding the weight of his world.  It may not have been about changing a feeling for him, per say, but processing feelings. As a homeless teen, he had a lot of feelings to constantly endure, so his salvation was the simple moment spent in a pose like Tree.

photo by Legends2k's via Flickr

After teaching a class to the elderly in a retirement facility,  one women was practically in tears when she was able to lift a can of soup in our mock-weight exercises before seated yoga. She hurried up to her room and found her own can of soup, sat at the TV and moved her can of soup outward and back towards her heart, again and again. Just a simple motion brought her empowerment, happiness and pride. One muscle, many feelings.


Although we all have a laundry list of resolutions for 2012, whittle them down to manageable sizes – try a yoga class with just a “mountain and some trees.”  In a world where we constantly over-complicate things, it is amazing to find refuge in such ideology.  If you teach, try an entire class with only a couple poses, in a kind of quality verses quantity pursuit.  The body is powerful, like the mind and letting them dance together in simplicity can be a beautiful moment to capture.   Break apart Tree for 20 minutes and in the end, you will give your student an at-home or street-practice that is comforting and tangible. Move their muscles, change their feelings.

Happy New Year!