Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Eight Days a Week

This morning I took the cap off a dry erase marker and drew a nice, fat X under the number 8 on the white board on the wall of the yoga studio, so that now, a week into this thing, there are eight nice, fat x's behind my name. And here, for no real reason, are eight little lessons I've gleaned from a solid week of daily yoga.

1.  Showing up is 99% of the work. The hard part? It's the preparations (clean yoga blanket, full water bottle, correct clothes, actually getting in the car and going there instead of off in a million other directions), not the actual yoga. Once I'm in the studio, sitting on my mat, waiting for class to begin, I hardly even care what the poses will be. I know I can do them, or, if I can't, I know I can lie in child's pose for all anyone cares. Doing the yoga is easy, and getting easier by the day.

2.  You can do anything for one breath. The classes I've taken over the past week blur together, but one instructor said this one of the days, and I love the reminder. Not just while trying to hold a hard position, but during anything complicated or difficult in life, you can just be with it for one breath. Just breathe. Then breathe again. (Sometimes I think my older daughter was put on Earth to teach me this lesson.)

3.  Do things with purpose. It doesn't matter if it's deciding to work out or deciding to take a class or deciding to quit a job or deciding to move or deciding to stay up late watching Tosh.0; what matters is that it's intentional, that you're choosing to use your time and energy in a certain way rather than just drifting mindlessly into a situation. But, at the same time . . .

4.  Play more. I was so exhausted from the first four days in a row of yoga that I could hardly drag myself out of bed on Saturday morning to make the 7:30 class. I sat cross-legged on my mat, grumpy and sleepy, and wondered idly how little I could do without anyone noticing. Luckily, the instructor was one of the more colorful, irreverent teachers, and it ended up being the best class of the week for me, all because she encouraged us to play and have fun. We'd be clenching our jaws, frowning through the sweat in eagle or crow, and she'd yell, "Smile! It's just yoga! It's supposed to be fun!" Life, yoga: it's supposed to be fun! Play more.

5.  Be OK with looking silly and failing. I have very low standards for how I look as I go about my day, but even I am borderline embarrassed of myself when I emerge from hot yoga. If I go in the morning, I haven't showered before, so I'm holding onto what little shred of deodorant remains from the day before. My hair is held back by a wide headband that I like to think makes me look Earth Mother-ish but which probably makes me look like a hobo cleaning lady. Most importantly, I look like I've taken a shower with my clothes on and I smell terrible. But guess what? So does everyone else in the room. During the class, too, I inevitably fall out of poses or tip over backwards or land with a thud when I try to jump out gracefully. The first few times I did this, I felt strange and vulnerable. Now? I hardly notice. I need to carry this more into my everyday life.

6.  Being fully present in our bodies is so rare, and so good. I watched my little dancers perform in their spring recital on Saturday afternoon, and it was such a treat to see them fully inhabit their strong bodies on the stage. One of the bonuses of having daughters in dance is that I get to see such a range of dance performances that are totally unfamiliar to me, since I didn't grow up dancing (or even watching dance performances). Watching some of the older, more accomplished classes perform long, complicated, and original choreography, I thought about how I couldn't care less if Annie and Jemma continue to dance, but I do want them to experience in some way the joy of being completely immersed in something physical. It could be the underwater speed of swimming, or the musical immersion of dance, or the intricate passing of basketballs, or it could be dance. For me, it's yoga.

7.  There is power in community. At the start of almost every one of the classes this past week, the instructor has asked those of us participating in the 30-day challenge to raise our hands. (About half the class typically does.) The wall of the studio is covered in white boards, and each board is covered with names, and each name is followed by a row of x's or checks or colored-in squares. There is something important about knowing that the person next to me on the mat is struggling to show up every day, too. There is something satisfying about going over and writing on the dry erase board after the class is over, even though most of these people are strangers and I never see them outside of class.

8.  Practice makes . . . permanent. Not perfect, permanent. In yoga, as in life, there is no such thing as perfection. There is, instead, always an opportunity to grow, to tweak, to change, to play your edge, to keep doing something over and over (breathe, write, sing, love, cook) until the skill becomes a habit on which you can build. And I think, eight days in, that taking the time to practice breathing and moving intentionally a little bit every day might just affect my life permanently.

1 comment:

  1. Bag lady....or Axle Rose (if you're wearing your aviators!) :)