Sunday, February 20, 2011

Reading in bed

This morning I found myself confounded by my situation. Unlike most other mornings in my life, today I had the rare experience of having nowhere to be. Nothing I had to do. No child to manage. This morning the plan was to relax. It is so amazing to me that a good portion of my life involves teaching, practicing, writing or thinking about yoga, and still relaxing for me is like committing some kind of white-collar crime.

My milieu this morning was perfect for relaxing. I'm mid-way through a book that I love (A Pocket History of Sex in the Twentieth Century, by Jane Vandenburgh). It's my favorite kind of read-- tragic memoir with a heavy dose of cynicism and hilarity. My coffee maker had brewed me another fantastic pot. My house was actually clean. My laundry was done. When I woke up, I decided that I would let myself stay in bed drinking coffee and reading for as long as I wanted. About an hour in, I started thinking, I should go to 10am yoga. I have to teach this afternoon, so that would mean two trips to the studio on my "relaxed" day. So, I let it pass. While I poured my second cup of coffee and let go of 10am yoga, I decided I'd walk to work later. Somehow this decision made it okay not to go to yoga. After about another half hour of my decadent read-a-thon, I got a text. While on my phone, I looked up the pool schedule. "I'll walk to work and on the way, go for a swim" I thought.

It's like some sort of weird trading card system I've got going in my head. "You can read in bed for two hours, but you have to walk 4 miles and swim 1600 yards." In my mind, relaxing is some kind of an earned status. The other day I had just finished teaching the 5pm class. Gary, the teacher who was waiting in the lobby to teach the 7pm is from Alabama. While I, like usual, frenetically finished my teaching duties so I could gather my things and get to the PTA meeting (late), I said to Gary, "I'm really bad at doing nothing" to which he replied in his laid-back, subtle, southern drawl, "I'm really, really good at doing nothing. I'm actually great at doing nothing." And he was completely serious. He doesn't have the thing I have. I imagine some people would say it's guilt.

I've thought about this character trait of mine a lot, why I'm a multi-tasking, crazy, nutbag. But the answer is that I really don't know why. Once in a moment of pure appreciation and gratitude for my students and the existence of yoga in my life, I told the class, "If not for yoga, I'd be a chain-smoking, road-raging, alcoholic homeland security agent." I like to think that's an exaggeration, but who knows. Even though I fought my plan to relax in bed this morning, employing weird trading card games to justify my decadent morning, I did it. What yoga's given me is the ability to move through the resistance to relax a little bit more easily. Today, I stayed in bed for three hours. Three long hours, an eighth of a whole day. I drank my coffee. I read my book. I relaxed. And, while writing this post didn't bring me the answer to why I'm a relaxaphobe, it did keep me in bed a little bit longer. I'm getting up now to walk to work. And I'm skipping swimming.


  1. Good for you. I'm a big fan of doing nothing (reminds me of "Dharma Bums" when Jack calls himself the Budda of do nothing). We go way too hard in American society as it is. I think why you have what Gary (nice quote) doesn't because at least partially is that society tells us we need to do this or that and not just enjoy life, and I think it's probably worse for parents because you have to fill up your childs life as well as own w/ something

  2. well i think this is a popular dilemma, especially if you have a daily practice. I chose to skip yoga today too - but after reading your blog - i threw out my mat and did a few sun salutations. this is also a problem with bikram because it doesn't lend itself to a home practice. I was so grateful for my Iyengar, Vinyasa, and Anusara study. Missing class, shouldn't mean you miss yoga. And really, yoga is one of those things where missing it is like missing an arm. It's not a reflection on you, it's the nature of the situation. It's also kind of funny that on the day of great relaxation - you decided not to do the greatest relaxing thing of all. .. YOGA! so weird that you lumped it in with your "to dos". Nobody does nothing. it's impossible to do nothing. it's the most challenging pose.

  3. Exactly! That's what I say in almost every class I teach. The ultimate challenge, the challenge we all work towards in yoga is to let go.

    For me, on this day, letting go meant something different from getting what I get everyday when I practice yoga. On this day, I needed to restore myself in different ways to prepare to teach the 4pm class. My balance, focus, and stregth this day came from nourishing myself in ways other than practicing yoga. I have lots of practices- yoga, writing, parenting, swimming, reading, and walking among them. There is a place and purpose for them all.

    What's different about my yoga practice is that it comes through in all of my other life practices. Because I practice yoga, I can be calm, focused, an relaxed within these other practices.

  4. I have the same problem. We spent a week in Mexico and all I did was think of all the things I should have been doing.


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