With every breath, I am learning.

I close my eyes, turning inward. The thoughts that have driven me here — the worries about injury, the cares in my personal life, the stresses of the work I just left behind — begin to dissipate as I breathe deeply. Words recently spoken lose the great momentum their continual revolutions have been keeping in my head.

I am sorry. This one will assert itself many times before it really drops away, I know, and so I put it down for now to recollect my strength. Will I always be sorry? I have asked myself; based on past experience, it seems likely. Even forgiving myself for my failings does not mean I do not feel the responsibility. These are things I think about before I arrive on the mat. Even if I did nothing wrong, even if I only caused pain inadvertently — even with the best of intentions — I am aware of the weight of my steps, of what they can accidentally crush. This is not the same as guilt, although I know it might look similar.

With a soft sound like a distant, gentle ocean, my breath leaves me. I rest in the gap between this and my next inhale. My intention is set: clarity, in this moment. I want to do the right thing; not just the thing that I want, but the thing that is right.

I have been impatient. As a constitutionally patient person, I’ve found this perhaps easier to bear than one might otherwise expect… but I long to run again, swiftly, to put miles beneath my feet and control my breath in that more familiar context. The similarity in breath control is something I find comforting. I have grown impatient lately with my heart, too, not just the other muscles that need time to recover.

All of this I peel off like the outer layer I wear and set beside me as the practice begins. I look forward to doing so, to letting my mind empty itself as my lungs fill with air, my body with a deep warmth. I love how quiet a thing this is. In this quiet, I am able to see how I can be my own support system; another healthy reinforcement replaces a self-defeating one. I think that when I’m finished and don both the garment and the concerns, I am better equipped to handle them. I hope it, too.

At the end, I roll up my mat and let my body relax in the warmth it has generated, even as my mind begins to turn to what I need to do and the courage I will summon for the task.

At every step, I am learning.