In the midst of directing us yoga teacher trainees through a difficult posture series, our joints squealing, our brows furrowed, our teacher Tony Sanchez would casually add an extra direction to his teaching. He'd be saying something like, "Bring your hips down on your heels. Bring your arms over your heard. Palms together..." and then he'd slip in the line, "Bring the corners of your mouth to your ears."
Each time I heard that line, I couldn't help it - I grinned big and bright. It's not that my knees stopped hurting. It's not that my tight hips finally released. It's not that I had arrived anywhere new, nor had I conquered a long sought-after goal. Nor did I understand my life any better than a moment earlier. No, the bearded guy sitting on his heels, arms raised above his head, sweaty and smiling, was still messy old me.
Yet, something had changed. When Tony reminded me to smile, and when the corners of my mouth dutifully obeyed, I felt lighter. I regained a sensation of hope, of promise, of the very reason I spend so many hours on the yoga mat.
I practice yoga to celebrate - to celebrate my life and the life around me. Most days, I begin yoga practice with this intention, but soon drift into a sea of striving, frustration, triumph and defeat. What begins as an offering, a dance for my Creator, turns to performance, an opportunity to shine. What begins with bright eyes turns fierce.
"Bring the corners of your mouth to your ears." Giggling, grinning, I realize how I've drifted off. How I've lost my way. The smile brings me home. Back to the mat. Back to messy old me. Back to celebrating this glorious not-ready-for-primetime nonetheless beautiful life.