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Geri Portnoy | Yoga of Aliveness

by Geri Portnoy: I feel truly alive when I surrender and let go into the evolutionary invitation of life beckoning me to step out of hiding and come closer… 


to touch reality in a new sensual way. Beyond my ego’s insistence on completing my to-do-list, out beyond the edges of living in the safety of my conceptual mind thinking about life. Aliveness happens when my body softens — I let down my guard, I relax my habitual defensive stance to this unfolding moment and allow myself to be undone by the beauty of the sunset, or fall in love with the sweet caress of the fresh ocean air.

There are no habitual maps in this uncharted territory. Aliveness requires my wholehearted participation in the freshness of each moment. An intimacy so real that it threatens to annihilate my former sense of self as I allow myself to be so taken by the vibrant beauty of the little purple flowers in my backyard garden, and to be so touched by the horror of the beheadings on TV and the atrocities of war. To come alive is to come awake in my body to sensual delights and repugnant ugliness of the current world situation and allow the full, messy, intense, experience to flow through me. To break my small heart open, over and over again, to ever-greater capacities to love.

One of the practices that opens me into this deeper intimacy with life is my yoga practice. When I step onto my yoga mat I come fiercely alive, and awaken into an intimate relationship with the Mystery of life. Beyond the habitual recycling my 60,000 thoughts from yesterday, this new aliveness demands my full participation with the unknown information my senses are bringing in this very moment. The primal heaviness of my feet touching the earth, the stretch of my fingers spreading and digging into my purple sticky yoga mat for another Downward Facing Dog. My breath is rhythmic and flowing — opening to receive this cool inhale, and giving back this warm exhale — in endless cycles of being. There’s a sweet whispery sound to my breath as it sweeps across my throat disappearing into the oxygenated infinity of my limited, frail powerful, human body.

Yes, yoga on my mat does bring me alive into the swirling sensations of embodied movement, stretching, trembling — the ache in my heart at the edge of what’s possible. Beyond pushing or forcing anything to happen, I’m invited into an expectant waiting at the alive-edge of discovering, what wants to happen next? Will my hip be open enough to take my foot behind my head? Will I balance today in handstand, or fall over in 3 seconds flat? Exploring the threshold of uncertainty and discovery, I lean forward and feel a stretch in my thigh so piercingly sharp that it momentarily takes my breath away – I recoil, recalibrate, relax and take a breath. I allow the stretch to be as it is, and sweetly cradle it with kindness until I’m at ease in the midst of the tension.

I lie down on my mat to rest for the final pose, Shavasana – with my arms and legs extended and palms turned upward toward the sky. There is no pressure here to produce or achieve anything just a radical invitation to relax and let go. My belly softens, my heart expands open like a bud nourished to fulfillment – my eyes soften and I am carried as if in an open sea, unbounded, without limits. I’m present both inside and outside my body – a swirling simultaneity of dancing energies floating in space and resting in being me. I am home again, complete, at peace, inclusive of all that I am and there is nowhere I am not. I rest here for eternity – just basking in being — a place where I am simultaneously nothing and everything. Until the bell rings — my breath deepens, and I become more aware of my body again, the heaviness of my bones, and the energy coursing through my hands and feet. I roll onto my side and sit up. Palms touching in front of my heart, I bow my head and silently whisper, “om-nama-shivaya — I honor Life within and all around me”

Walking back out to my car, across the pale grey parking lot, I’m accosted by the bright radiant green leaves leaping from the branches of the trees. I feel the sun’s warmth touch my cheek and the air itself seems to sparkle with aliveness. This is my yoga now, no sticky mat, just the enriching aliveness of an ordinary moment of life.

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