Softening into the song

There are some thoughts that do not readily squeeze themselves into the tight-fitting corsets of coherent sentences. Instead, they seep out and linger in the silent blank spaces of the page.

I scrawled the above sentences in a torn and tattered notebook as I sat aboard a late night American Airlines flight home to Dallas. At the time, I was seeking refuge in the pages of my journal, hoping to purge of some of the rapid-fire thoughts coursing through my brain after a weeklong immersion and training with at risk-youth on the streets of Los Angeles. I’d been sitting there, pencil in hand, begging my hand to purge the words of my heart on a page, and still that line of text was all I could muster.

After seven days of soaking up the words of profoundly inspiring community leadersmega-articulate youth, and an incredible group of women who reflected my own light with each word they spoke, I found myself mute. Why could I not write? Where was my voice?

Finally, I set the pencil on the tray table. I closed my eyes, leaned back in the stiff airplane seat, and gazed softly out the airplane’s window. I breathed into my belly, drawing on a practice of “resourcing” I’d used over and over again during the week when things got tough, a practice I hoped to share with the “at-risk youth” in my life if only I could just get it down for myself. I was afraid of my belly. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to know what it had to say.

You see, if there’s one practical, tangible insight I walked away with from this week, it’s that I tighten in the face of fear. We — men, women, children, and animals alike — are biologically wired to harden when we sense danger, withdraw when we feel the cold touch of despair, grab on for dear life when we feel the hollow illusion of solid ground pulled out from underneath us. I met a lot of darkness week, both in my own mind and in the juvenile facilities, rec centers, and impoverished communities we visited. But by the end of the trip, I’d recognized a valuable lesson emerge in almost every situation I was placed. It’s in the softening, in the gentle receptivity of a deep, healing breath, that the light seeps into the darkness and begins to heal.

So, as the gentle stream of my breath flowed down, soothing the tortuous clenching in my heart center and intestinal walls… I felt the shift. There it was. A lump in the back of my throat swelled up. Tingles in my shoulders and forearms made my hair stand up on end, as I moved to pick up the pencil again. And then, from deep in the pit of my tummy, a voice began to sing.

Stay tuned for the verses that emerged.

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- who has written 43 posts on Yoga Modern.

Chelsea Roff is a writer by day and yoga teacher by night, a weaver of words as well as of asanas. She is Managing Editor at, and her writing has been featured by Yoga Journal, Elephant Journal, Wanderlust Festival and the Hanuman Festival. Chelsea is passionate about using online media to inspire action that serves a greater cause -- whether it be the expansion of knowledge, support of our global community, or improvement of planetary and personal health. She travels the country teaching yoga in the most non-traditional of spaces, from cocktail parties to public protests to centers for at-risk youth. In Dallas, Chelsea helped start a yoga service organization that brings yoga classes to people in homeless shelters, juvenile detention centers, and prisons. Chelsea currently lives in Santa Monica, CA, where she can be found cartwheeling across the beach, hiking in the mountains, and practicing yoga poses on her little pink scooter.

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