There is the person I am on the yoga mat, and then there is the person I am off the yoga mat. On the mat, I am mindful and precise. Feeling each and every movement I make and each breath I take. This precision makes me feel strong and empowered. There is nothing I need to rush through physically, or check out of mentally, because each breath I take reminds me “I’ve got this”. The strength I feel on the mat is more than just muscle. It’s an inner knowing that I can handle what comes my way and everything is exactly as it should be. On the mat, I am a warrior goddess. My strong parts are bad ass, and my soft parts are feminine and beautiful. My body can stretch and hold itself into amazing shapes and I sometimes feel in awe of myself. When I’m on my mat, I feel joy. For no particular reason at all, there is an inner zest and feelings of connection – and in these moments it’s all good. During savasana, when I am on my mat, I am complete, whole and perfect.
When I am off my mat I am insecure. My strong parts aren’t strong enough and my soft parts are gross and fat – they need to be hidden! Day to day, I go through the motions and at times feel dull and often ask the question; is this all there is ? I feel unconnected as I rush through my day, working hard to make enough to pay the bills and then sleeping just to wake up and do it all over again. Then there are the times, that because of all of the above, I completely checkout. I zone out while binging on Netflix. I escape being in my body and my mind, because it isn’t a comfortable place to be. When I am off my mat, I feel alone. I don’t know who I can trust, who understands the real me and my struggles. When I’m far from my mat, I feel like I am in limbo – on the brink of living life but not quite there yet. Where is my perfect partner, house and white picket fence?
BUT….The time I spend on my mat teaches me that nothing is perfect, beautiful and amazing 100% of the time. Life is full of joy, sadness, yearning, fullness, dispair and bliss. The yoga is finding the place in the middle. Little by little, I start to realize that my feelings of loneliness and sadness will pass. I might feel the sun or the breeze and connect with simple bliss and be rescued from those feelings of drowning. The more I practice, the more that person on the mat makes her way into my everyday life. But the other person, who lives off the mat is valuable and worthy, too. I take them both, and in the middle, I find myself.
This week I was inspired to take out the books I have on yin yoga, as well as take a yin class on YogaGlo. First of all, yin yoga is amazing because you can do it on your bed! But really besides that, I have enjoyed slowing down a bit. With it already being August I am reminded again how quickly time seems to fly by. Then I start to think back on what I’ve done and accomplished- whether it’s in my work life, social life or in general and that makes me think of all the things I want to get done and do and see….and here I am; in the past, in the future, and letting the NOW slip right by. Well, yoga puts you in the moment. And a slow, gentle practice stretches those little moments out so you begin to notice more, feel more and enjoy more. I want to live my days as if it were a yin yoga practice- soaking up each breath, feeling every sensation in my body and being fully present.
When I created this website a couple years ago (with help of course!) I envisioned myself blogging often. Letting my words on the page be a sort of journal for myself, so I could look back and see what I’ve done, where I’ve been and hopefully inspire or maybe just connect with others in a meaningful way. As you can see, there is only a couple of postings that I ever got around to doing and so I made the decision to try and get into a rhythm and back into my writing. BUT then I get this weird feeling in my stomach, and begin to think….”What if what I write isn’t interesting? Other people’s blogs are so creative and well done! What should I even write about and who will even care what I have to say.” That’s when in it clicked – this can’t be done for an audience or anyone else but ME. I need to write whatever is on my mind and with the thought that that no one but me will ever see it. That’s the only way I can be honest and authentic…AND quiet that voice in my head with all its crazy concerns. So that is what I am going to do. I don’t want to put a goal out there, posts per week, or anything like this, I just hope that with this new found freedom I will organically feel called to write and create. At the end of the day, getting my thoughts out of my head will feel good to me and maybe someone else can relate, too. Let’s see how this goes!
“Let this practice be yours, modify any poses that you need to. In fact, feel free to completely ignore anything that i say.”
I proclaimed this statement in this morning’s class and was met with one student’s surprised eyes saying,”What? Really? Ignore YOU?” I told her absolutely, this is your practice. I am a guide. I give you a template, an offering and you take what feels right and you skip or change what doesn’t. Most days, I make some sort of statement in my classes about listening to your body and doing what feels good. Today I learned that our students can be fiercely loyal. In fact, many want to impress and please the yoga teacher (I know I’ve been there!) So today I realized that just as I have to be completely clear in my instructions, guiding students in and out of poses, I must also be completely clear that the student, their self, is the real teacher. When it comes to the student’s practice; physical body, mental state of mind, energy level, I know nothing compared to what they know. So when it comes to following me, it’s optional, I am not the expert. I would also love to let my classes know that I am so pleased when I see you skip the option to “flip your dog” or practice your handstand hops. I admire you when your knees drop down for child’s pose while I am instructing warrior 2. I want to see you doing YOUR practice and then I know that you’ve connected with the real guru, the real teacher…You.
Nurture. Grow. Rebuild. These two words seem to perfectly describe my yoga practice as of lately. I’m not as interested in the fancy asana, but what serves my body (my temple) and my mind today…this moment. When we get into a routine we seem to maintain. Keep the status quo and just get by. Until something goes wrong to shake this up, and we realize the ground underneath us is not always as stable as we may like to think. Something breaks, a heart, or a bone, and we hurt and need to mend. In our own bodies this takes time; to feel broken and then whole again. As it is happening, the mending or connecting back together, the process seems slow like it’s never going to be OK again. But weeks, months, or years later when things are OK, we know for a fact we can heal and stop hurting.
Last week, I bought a bunch of flowers and as I was trimming some of the leaves and the ends to put them in the vase one flower broke off from its stem. It was alive, beautiful and vibrant with color, so I didn’t want to throw it out. Instead, I just stuck it in the middle of the bunch, to be held up, but the stem wasn’t long enough to be immersed in water. After a day or so, it began to wilt, to die. Still not wanting to throw it in the garbage, I put it in a small ball jar so the stem could reach water. Within an hour the petals became succulent with life, they lifted up, in fact the whole stem was bent and collapsed and it completely resurrected when flushed with water, its life source. This happens to us. We are bent, broken, petals wilted but with the help of our life source, breath, connection, yoga we can rise up again and become whole. The flower can accelerate the process as proof of where we will get, if it takes us more time, so be it.
This week I found myself shopping for a few additional Christmas decorations to add to my collection. As I was browsing the aisles of Home Goods, I picked up a tree-topper, stocking hooks and a few new ornaments. This should have been the end of this blog post – walk up to checkout, pay and leave – THE END. But amidst the scented candles, sparkly ornaments and snowmen figurines, I was transported into a story, created by yours truly. As I put the stocking hooks into my cart it was as if the background faded and all of a sudden there I was in my living room. My fireplace (which I’ve NEVER used!) was roaring and crackling. The smell that filled the warm air was that of pine needles from my tree and hot cocoa. I saw myself hanging up four stockings, one for myself, another one for Pablo my dog, and then a third for my mom (who actually is coming up this year for Christmas). But there was a fourth – this stocking was for the guy I am seeing (if you can call it that) but whom I’m falling hard for. It all seemed so perfect; I LOVE this scenario that I am dreaming up. I like it so much that when I finally do snap back into reality and realize it is only October, I am in Home Goods and I am single, I feel a wave of anxiety rush over me. It starts building in the pit of my stomach, that churning feeling. I’ve made myself believe that the story in my head is the way things should be. Christmas must turn out that way or I’ll be disappointed – maybe even devastated!
So we all have stories – mine tend to be more of the “It’s a Wonderful Life”/ hopeless romantic genre. Yours may be dreaming up the perfect job with a corner office and a plentiful paycheck, or seeing yourself on the beach in that bikini body you always wanted. But whatever the story, it is just that – a story. Don’t get me wrong, some daydreaming and visualization is absolutely harmless, and at times even healthy. But it is dangerous when we start to convince ourselves that this is the way things should be, and if the situation doesn’t look like our story we are failing, our life is less than enough, things are not okay. When the story sets these expectations we are conveying the message to ourselves that the present moment is not enough, we are NOT enough.
The next time you begin that, “Once upon a time….”, see if you can quiet the mind down. Take a deep breath and ground, feel your feet on the earth and check in with where you are physically. Then repeat silently to yourself – this is it, the here and now, and it is sweet and exciting to find out how it will unfold without any expectations. The story will happen on its own, our job is to stop writing it in the mind and let it happen in the moment, in real life.
I start to push into my elbows, forearms and palms then begin to inch my feet towards the top ofmy mat. I lift up one leg and start to take tiny hops, using core strength rather than momentum, and up I go into Pincha Mayurasana (forearm stand). I’ve been here before, many times with a wall, and more recently without for a breath or two. But today, I take one, two and then three breaths. Something is happening, I feel so aligned and perfectly stacked that I take breath, nine, ten and eleven. I feel as if I could hold the pose for minutes. I take myself down by choice – not falling out of the pose and my heartbeat is thumping in my chest. This inversion makes me feel strong, but more than that it makes me feel brave. Kind of like a super hero! So for eleven breaths and then the few moments after I come out of a pose, I feel on top of the world. Look at me! I balance on my forearms – look how far I’ve come! And physically I have come far in my practice. But it’s behind the physical journey that I have made big strides and huge changes. I can stack my bones and joints and balance on my hands or arms, but inside I feel aligned which makes me feel complete just as I am. The release of the pose gives me a sense of satisfaction, a rush, dare I say a high. But this high doesn’t come from a substance, a drink, a drug or a pill. This practice has aligned me to my true self where I no longer need any of that to be myself, to love, and to be happy. Here on my mat, alone in my body and soul just as it is, I am complete.