Wednesday, January 23, 2013

At least I'm sure about my nail polish

I sometimes think my ultimate quest in life is to feel certain. About anything. I second guess most things I do-- before I do them, while I'm doing them, and after they are done. This self-doubt might stem from being a twin. Until college when my twin sister and I split up to go to college three states away from each other, I pretty much followed her around. She was cool, new-wave bordering on punk, the kind of high school kid who dyed her hair platinum and wore the wishbone from dinner as an earring to school the next day. I was a nerdish jock. I tried to be as rad as Katherine, but the farthest I really got was dying a chunk of bangs peroxide orange. The result was a really bad Flock of Seagulls look and really irritating grow out. College for me was kind of a disaster. I hid in the familiar nerd-land that was mostly where I was comfortable, and let all that stuff that Kat exposed me to go by the wayside. And I think I missed that stuff. Even though it was Katherine's it felt kind of like part of me too.

My adulthood since college has been twenty years of exploring different "ways of being." Deep down my foundation is still N E R D and as the years have ticked on, I've been able to expand that identity. But I always have been and always will be a twin, so the self-doubt persists. In 1990 Katherine and I drove our grandmother's 1978 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme from Chicago to Seattle. We were going to open a restaurant in Portland but kept driving because we had friends in Seattle. Katherine stayed for about seven years and during those years I still followed her lead. After she moved, it was like college again, only I was a moderately less nerdy.

Yoga is the one really clear thing in my post-gcollege life that has helped me to feel more secure in my decisions. When Katherine left Seattle, I was already doing yoga, but after she moved, I got way more serious, practicing several times a week on a regular basis. Three years after she moved, I was becoming a teacher, opening a studio. In many ways, I think this was my first big breakthrough, leaving my old "do-gooder" social worker job, taking a big risk to open a business, stepping out into something totally separate from Katherine. Since then, I've made lots of little decisions that are just mine. The other day in yoga, I was doing Padahastasana (hands-to-feet pose) and I noticed my newly manicured toes (I'll call the color coral-persimmon). I had a moment when I thought to myself, "Laura, you made the 100% right decision about that color." It felt so good, that feeling of being certain. These days Katherine wouldn't be caught dead wearing nail polish. Funny how things change.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Work hard and be gentle

On Sunday night I contemplated going to Gary's 6:00am class. "Contemplated" means I gave myself an out. If I didn't sleep enough, I would just go to Penni's 9:30am class instead. At 3:36am Monday morning I woke up. I was up for about a half-hour and decided that I'd read for a while, shut off my alarm clock and skip 6:00am so I could sleep longer. At 4:45am I was still no closer to sleep so I decided that I would go to 6:00am yoga after all.

Class was pretty small, only about eight of us. I love the early morning class and it felt great to practice. During Pavanamuktasana, Gary told us to pull harder, harder, harder. Then, during Savasana he said, "Y'know, you can work really hard and still be gentle. Work hard and be gentle with yourself." It was the perfect thing to say at that moment and I've been thinking about it ever since.

I've struggled with perfectionism for my entire life. I hesitate to try new things because I don't want look like a loser. I try to control all aspects of my life so I will be prepared (translation: perfect) in any given situation. It's not a good thing. My challenge in my life right now is to work hard at letting go of some of that control and be okay being (occasionally) in the unknown.

It's really hard work, this letting go business. I find myself being impatient, wanting to be better at it than I am. I'm working on letting go of certain friendships, shedding expectations in existing relationships, being more open-minded and less controlling in all of my interactions. It's kind of an all-day, everyday job and I often struggle. So when Gary said, "Work hard and be gentle with yourself", I felt comforted. Yes! I can keep working on all of these things, but when I stumble, I can be a bit less barbaric with my self-punishment.

Class was great. I worked hard. I was gentle with myself. During final Savasana, I fell asleep. I woke up 25 minutes later when Gary was cleaning the mirrors.
I have fallen asleep in final Savasana only a handful of times in my life. I'm the person who never falls asleep on the plane. I have napped maybe ten times in my adult life. And, being the studio owner, I am rarely relaxed enough to completely check out, so falling dead asleep was a delightful surprise.

I might have fallen asleep because I was exhausted from waking up at 3:36am. Maybe I was lulled into slumber by Gary's familiar voice. I believe both of these things helped. But I think ultimately it was something more, something bigger. I felt a genuine surge of relief when Gary introduced the "gentle" into "working hard." The hard work of life felt a little bit easier. I felt a little bit lighter. Regardless of the reason(s) for it, I loved my unexpected nap. I hope it happens again real soon.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Get to the root of it!

Even though I resist resolutions, I can't help making a least a few little ones each year. It's a big deal to get through 365 days and a great opportunity to make a shift in one's life. This year I decided to give up half-and-half. More than a few people have chuckled at my resolution. It seems pretty minor compared to giving up alcohol or exercising daily or even eating more kale. For me, giving up half-and-half is a giant deal because I drink coffee with half-and-half every day and I love it more than anything in the world. But alas, being in Hawaii in a bathing suit last week led me to consider the slow accumulation of mass that I want to fight as long as possible, so fare-thee-well mighty half-and-half.

I had the opportunity to teach both the New Year's Eve and New Year's Day classes at The SweatBox this year. Seeing all of the students who made the effort to practice on these days inspired me to dig deeper into the possibilities of New Year's resolutions. At the beginning of class on both days, I invited the class to think about how they wanted to live their lives, to think about what "their best self" might look like. Yoga practice is a microcosm of the bigger world, so practicing with our best intentions, not just going through the motions, offers us a way to develop tools for how we live life off of the mat as well as on the mat.

Anyone who practices Bikram Yoga knows the significance of locking the knee in the standing balancing postures. If you're not a Bikram practitioner, just know that it's a big ass deal. Yesterday in class I noticed a lot of students kicking out with a bent knee (non-Bikram people, trust me that's a no-no.) So many times over the years while teaching, I've wanted to yell out at the top of my lungs, "You are good enough!" to the struggling students in the room who kick out on a bent knee. Standing on a locked knee, (not kicking out) is good enough. For those of you still struggling to balance on a locked knee, it might take a while, but you'll get there. Just be patient. Yesterday I said, "when you kick out with a bent knee, it is as if you are pulling out a weed, but leaving the root." It might look pretty for a minute, but the weed is still there. I know how it feels to kick out on a bent knee and I know how it feels to pull a weed and leave the root because, as the quintessential lazy gardener, that's pretty standard for me.

I have tried to be a better gardener at various times in my life. I've committed to pulling out the weeds by the roots, really getting down there. When it happens, it is SO satisfying. Every time I do it, I think, that weed is NEVER coming back. I don't kick out on a bent knee anymore either. I haven't for a while. It's taken years, and lots and lots of practice. My official resolution this year is to quit half-and-half, but the bigger one is to dig deep, get to the root-- in the garden, in the yoga room and in my life.