There is a vision of myself that I treasure. It’s from one of my first Vinyasa classes at a new studio. The lights were dim, the music and teacher were exuberant, and things had gotten pretty sweaty. We were cued to “flip our dogs,” taking one foot high in adho mukha svanasana, bending that knee, stacking our hips and then bringing our foot to the floor behind us, pivoting hips and heart and throat up towards the ceiling into an arcing backbend that felt like flying. My front-body open, grinning chin lifted to the ceiling, free hand reaching for the horizon – I was in euphoric expansion, anchored firmly to a solid foundation. This experience was reinforced by a friend who walked by the studio window at just that moment and said to me afterwards “Wow, you looked like you were having the time of your life!” This vision and its emotional and spiritual components encapsulate what I love most about Vinyasa – its joyous and creative expression, its element of deep play, and its emphasis on stillness and connection attained through movement .
After twenty years of accepting chronic pain in my body as just “part of life,” I have healed myself of back, hip, feet and wrist injuries, and certainly more that was brewing. There is a freedom and ease in my physical experience that I never expected to feel increasing as I get older. Alignment-based asana gets the credit for the feeling that I am in the best shape of my life. I also acknowledge my meditation practice and a sincere effort at making ethical choices as contributing mightily to my mental and emotional health. Harmonious relationships, enriching opportunities, and the conviction that my work is of service to others are all pivotal to my overall sense of well-being. Soft forms of yoga like Judith Lasater’s restorative and Yin have a weekly place in my routine. I have been blessed by teachers with a thorough understanding of alignment, and the geek in me is quickly taken in by precision. Relatively static forms of yoga based on distinct, held poses adjusted by a teacher have an important place in the yoga universe. I like to learn through many styles, especially from therapeutic teachers. Nevertheless, I bellow a hearty endorsement to alignment-based “flowing” Vinyasa – a practice of movement, breath, and strong fluid transitions. It offers intense pleasure in the body – the grossest part of our selves, but a viable portal into other aspects of our experience. The joy of sure and rhythmic movement; the regaining of steadiness when surety is bobbled; the application of just the right amount of exertion to allow the emergence of subtle sensation; sweet trembling fatigue after an offering of energy and strength; and that precious, delicate skill of prioritizing stability over extension – all these things reward me richly.
At some point in my early 30s, my grandmother was expressing disapproval of my chosen life. “I’m happy,” I said. “Hmmph!” she replied, “Life is not about being happy.” I adore her, and value every memory of her I can retain, but I think she got this wrong. We are aligned with the Divine when we are truly happy – anything on the spectrum from quiet contentment to supernova explosions of glee – and that IS what life is, about. Dr. Wayne Dyer encourages us to “vibrate at a high frequency,” a phrase I embrace and repeat with gusto. When our energy is occupied with creative and generous love and beauty, when we offer and accept that energy by practicing strength and skill, even when we stumble, our motions are Grace-full. That flipped dog pose is still one of my favorites. It makes my body, heart and soul unleash ecstatically!
Jenni Antonicic has been exploring her spiritual and physical existence with great gusto since she was a teenager. She spent more than two decades sharing specialized beverages with fellow connoisseurs before shifting her focus to share specialized practices of body and breath with fellow students.