Friday, November 20, 2015

Let Your Practice Be Light

One of the things I notice around the holidays is that I start to feel a bit heavy. There's the food and drink that makes me feel more physically burdened than usual, but mostly it's the emotional burden of expectations, anticipation, and incessant social planning.

This year we're hosting Thanksgiving. I'm excited and happy to do it, but it's a lot of cooking and cleaning and hosting. Then there's Christmas. There's always the managing of gift giving and receiving. I try to find the perfect balance (impossible!) during Christmas where I indulge my daughter enough so she gets the excitement and thrill of this fun holiday, but not so much that it's gross. I stress about if anyone will invite us to a New Years Eve party and if they don't what kind of ritual will I make up that will sufficiently bring us into 2016.

The other day when I was teaching, I noticed a student looking forlorn and frustrated. It was one of those days when his balance was off and he was low on stamina. It's not uncommon to see people's practice change around the holidays; everyone's managing the stress of the season. As the class progressed, his frustration seemed to deepen. I had this very clear image of baggage. It's like when you go on a trip and pack too much but insist on doing carry-on (me, every single time). It's too much. It takes a lot of energy to carry that baggage onto light rail, through security, to your gate and then squeeze it onto the plane all the while getting snarky looks from normal packers.

Each Yoga class is a journey and we can alter the path by making certain mental choices during our practice. Often when I teach Yoga, I invite students to clear their minds after each posture. I remind them that carrying each posture into the next will create a very heavy practice, ultimately a much harder one. "Don't make yourself carry extra baggage," I tell the class. "Let each posture go mentally when you physically release it. Try not to dwell on it, evaluate it, or judge it." There will be time tomorrow to try Eagle pose again. For today, let it go.

Like everything, this letting go and moving on takes practice. I'm trying to engage in a similar practice this holiday season of getting through one holiday before moving onto the next. Right now I will focus on Thanksgiving. When I find myself thinking about Christmas or New Years, I tell myself to let it go, to just focus on Thanksgiving. The media, my family, old habits all make this practice difficult, but I'm trying. Changing old habits is always hard. The Yoga room is a great place to try it out. This season, let your practice be light.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

A daily practice in Bora Bora

At the end of the summer, after a very loosey-goosey few months, I recommitted to doing a daily practice. My practice usually includes a Yoga class in the studio with other students, led by a teacher. I find that I am the most focused, most motivated, most energized in the class enviroment. I get a lot from the community energy. Sometimes I simply cannot fit in a class between my own work schedule and my child care and social obligations and so  I have expanded my notion of  what "daily practice" is.

Committing to a "daily practice" that is more loosely defined has been incredibly liberating.  Sometimes my practice involves 40 minutes on my mat between classes at The SweatBox. Other days it's a 3 mile run with my 11-year-old at her pace. Some really busy days, it is a seated meditation in my living room at 5:30am before the rest of the house is awake.

I'm nearly 47 years old and I know that I am a better human being when I feel nourished, rested, and cared for. The mind-body connection that Yoga, meditation, and other physical exercise brings me is a life saver. Yoga, for me, is a symbol representing the notion that "I am here. I am awake. I am alive." It is a momentary pause in life to remind me to slow down, even full stop and notice the connection that exists with my body and my mind.

Last month, I did the 30-Day Challenge at The SweatBox. I practiced with others in the hot studio, deriving energy and strength from the bodies around me. On days when I couldn't fit in a scheduled class, I practiced on my own. This week,  it is Yoga on my deck in Bora Bora. We are here to celebrate a milestone birthday for Nancy. It is the most beautiful place in the world (that I've visited).  It is paradise. Yesterday we cracked open a coconut from the beach and drank the water. Then we shredded the coconut meat into a plate made out of palm leaves and ate it. It's the kind of place where people drink Pina Coladas at 11am and nap all afternoon.  It's remarkably indulgent and luxurious.

During our time here, I have gratefully pulled out my yoga mat every day and done my practice. I simply do the postures that my body calls me to do and I'm done when my body says I'm done. The classroom structure is not there, but my practice is. It might last fifteen minutes, it might last 30.  It might be a series of spine twisting postures; it might just be practicing head stands on the beach until I cannot endure any more sand in my suit. It's not what I am doing; it is that I am doing. A simple pause, even here in paradise, is a reminder that I am here. Conscious. Alive.