Mid-morning. The sun had risen well above the horizon, but the heat of the day hadn’t yet settled in. It would likely be warmer come the afternoon—even in November, the Sonoran Desert can be warm—but at this time of the morning, the leftover nightly chill mixed with the morning sunshine.
We line up our yoga mats on the deck of the visitors center at Usery Mountain Regional Park facing the desert: a collection of cacti and other succulents, red earth and the occasional creature scampering by—a bird, perhaps, or a small rodent seeking shelter in the plants. The desert is quiet except for the sounds naturally built into its soundtrack. This is Arizona’s meditation studio.
We start our practice by closing our eyes and taking in a few deep breaths. We move into a sun salutation, and then slowly proceed into a series of stretches and poses: downward facing dog, cobra, tree pose. I usually feel awkward and too aware of my body instead of smoothly moving through yoga poses, but on this particular occasion, I am much more relaxed and at ease. It’s not a struggle to dig deep into the practice because it just happens. I’m comfortable. It’s peaceful. I don’t feel the pressure of a mirror or hundreds of people staring at me on the beach.
As the class comes to a close, we move onto our backs and shut our eyes, relaxing each part of our body as the instructor leads us through the final breathing exercises. My limbs go limp, my body heavy and, at the same time, weightless on my mat. The glow of the morning sun penetrates my eyelids, and I sink into a zen-like state of meditation.
My yoga experience was sponsored, but all opinions are my own.