Picture yourself sitting on the floor, your back pressed firmly against the wall, your legs straight out in front of you. Then imagine pivoting at the hips so that you are now lying on the floor with your legs against the wall, stretched up toward the ceiling.

That’s the position I found myself in on Friday night, at the end of a “Gentle Yoga” class I was attending. I’m not a regular yoga practitioner, but the event was a fundraiser that a friend of mine had organized, benefiting the Global Fund for Women, and I wanted to go in order to support her and the organization.

She promised that the class would indeed be gentle, and that no previous yoga experience was necessary. This was important to me, since coordination has never been my strong suit, and because the last time I was in a yoga class – which was more than ten years ago – I got rear-ended on my way to class one evening, ended up in physical therapy, and decided after that to stay away from exercise programs that put any pressure on the neck and shoulders. Or that took me near the intersection where I got rear-ended.

I enjoyed the class I attended on Friday night, and felt no pain or pressure either during or after the class. I was a little nervous, as we were winding down, about the legs-up-the-wall pose. It looked a little awkward and uncomfortable, though it actually turned out to be quite soothing and relaxing. It also gave me, literally, a different view of the world.

It made me think of scenes from movies and television shows from many years ago, when characters appeared to defy gravity be walking up a wall or strolling across the ceiling of a room. This was long before computer-generated special effects made child’s play out of such feats. Back then the illusion was created through camera angles and the use of specially-built sets that made floors look like walls and ceilings.

And that’s what came to mind as I sat on a floor that was really a wall, and leaned on a wall that was really a floor.

As I listened to the soft music and the gentle voice of the yoga instructor, I thought about how easily and quickly our perceptions and viewpoints can change, simply by putting ourselves in a different position or looking at things from a different angle than we normally do. A brief, tiny shift can turn our world upside down. Or flip it over on its side. Sometimes this can be devastating, if it goes against something we’ve always trusted in and believed to be true. At other times, it simply opens our eyes to new possibilities and different options. It doesn’t necessarily change our beliefs about anything, it simply challenges us to open our eyes and really look at the world around us.

Whenever I find myself stuck in a rut of “same-old, same-old,” or climbing the walls as I try to resolve problems or answer difficult questions, perhaps I’ll try using this exercise and experience to see if it helps me come up with new ideas, considerations, and solutions. I’ll get down on the floor, swing my legs around till they’re up against the wall, and spend a bit of time thinking about new approaches and outlooks. I don’t know if it will answer my questions or solve my problems, but it will definitely get my blood rushing, my brain racing, and my eyes looking at new angles and viewpoints I may not have considered before.

And that beats climbing the walls any day.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on November 7, 2013.
©Betty Liedtke, 2013

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