As I turn out the light on one exhausted 15 year old, who’s fallen asleep while trying to complete his homework, I think about how different our lives were just 3 weeks ago. Back then, he was sleeping in (past noon on most days) while I went to the yoga studio each morning for the early morning mysore practice. I was dedicated to learning the ashtanga primary series — practicing each morning and reading up on it at night. It had become a routine that my body had responded nicely to — after the initial shock of my starting the rigorous daily practice. I loved that my days were not as painstakingly rough as they have been, thanks to my chronic bout with back and hip pain. Aside from finding comfort, my days were energized and I was actually sleeping at night! But…
Then came the return to school. High school, to be more precise. Football practice too. And HOMEWORK.
The return to the school routine was devastating enough to my morning routine, then came another set of changes. Included in the changes was a new expectation of longer work days which was placed on my department of four. After all my efforts to arrange a carpool so I could hit the mysore room every other day wouldn’t matter. Even when it is not my turn to drive the kids to school (which gets me in the general area of the office an hour earlier than I am used to), going to mysore is still not the option I’d hoped. I’d still have to abbreviate my practice.
In the past couple of weeks, I’ve tried to keep up my home practice but, sadly, I have become so tight from my reduced practices that once again I HURT. It feels like I’m starting over. And, in a way, I am.
I start off my mornings meditating for 20 minutes, just so that I can move. Then, I use whatever time I have left for a slowed down practice. In the evenings, I try to set aside at least 30 minutes to read and enhance my understanding of the practice. It’s a start but I can do more.
As I look to my son to “up his game”, I recognize that I too must up the ante for my own good. Perhaps it means a shorter but more consistent practice… maybe at night. If I want to see a change, I need to create it by putting forth the effort and consistency that it requires. Right action… to be the change that I wish to see.
Lately, I’ve been overwhelmed with the reading materials for my teaching program. I read the words with very little, if any, understanding. It’s frustrating because, not long ago, I felt like I was actually starting the get it. Now, the history, philosophy and concepts are all a jumbled mess in my head. The Koshas, Kleshas, Vedas, Yamas, Niyamas, Gunas: I can’t keep any of it straight. This doesn’t even touch upon the asanas (english terminology and corresponding sanskrit) or the anatomy components which I’d hoped that my nursing training would have been more helpful in me understanding. I seems that I have forgotten quite a lot.
I am pretty sure that I know more than I think I know. At least I hope so. But I am equally certain that I know no where near the amount of information I need to have learned by the time I test out. It’s now September. The year is rapidly coming to an end and I have publicly announced that I would sit for the written exams by the year’s end. I can’t do that if I am forever at the 4% mark in the ebook on yoga history and philosophy. It’s only one of many books that I have still to read.
I have so far still to travel on my path to certification, yet here I have my yoga website nearly complete. On one hand, it feels like a lie. Yet, this part of the process is one I felt confident in my ability complete. I just hope it isn’t all for nothing.
With my hands in Añjali Mudrā, I pray to the God whose teachings I grew up learning about, the god of my heart, and to every god I’ve ever read about. I give thanks for showing me how to get as far as I have and ask for direction in moving forward. Please, show me the way.
In this morning’s Mysore practice, my teacher asked me if she was pushing me too far. The assist of the moment was one of those much-appreciated-assists. You know the type: the ones that make you go “ahh” inside when your body finally gives up the fight. Not all the assists today were met with this same feeling for it’s been a hard week and my body has been stiffening up in response to the resistance I have been feeling inside. The stress of my son’s return to school, coupled with A LOT of work stress, is really taking its toll.
In general, I feel like the world is pushing me too far. My teacher’s encouragement to keep at on the mat is exactly what I need right now – both on and off the mat. Learning to not give up, when the asana is difficult, and just keep up the efforts to the best of your ability is what we all are learning in our practice. We try not to impose judgment on the end results and just give it our all (perhaps repeating the asana until we finally get it). These efforts on the mat, during this time when all I want to do is give up, teaches me to do the same when life gets difficult. I try not to impose judgments on my inability to be the perfect single parent, or my inability to be at all of my son’s activities and still pull together every loose end at work. It’s true; I cannot do it all. Not all by myself. So I learn to take the assists, to modify when I need to, and to just do my very best (perhaps again and again) until I push past this difficult time.
And again, when other tough times arise.
I have been practicing the ashtanga yoga method for close to two months now. One of the reasons I find this yoga method so challenging, and yet such an important practice for me, is that it demands me to work through the uncomfortable more than any other practice — which is a good ability to have when you are no longer on your mat. There is no retreating into child’s pose while the rest of the class does the offending asana. The sequence is set and you do every pose in order – sometimes more than once until you can get it right. The 6 day a week commitment that I had worked my body into adhering to fell by the weigh side with my son’s return to school.
Last week, my efforts to continue my practice at home fell short. There was the full moon, and then my own cycle, my son’s dependence on me to get out of bed, to get his new contact lenses into his eyes, and more and more reasons why I couldn’t. With each day that I cut my practice short, for one reason or another, the stiffness and pain in my back increased. I slept less and was more intolerant of the daily irritants that life brings. And I began to understand why this practice works.
On Saturday, after dropping the boy at football practice, I went straight to the store for the makings of a pulled pork dinner for my extended family. As soon as I got home, I got it into the crockpot and started in on cleaning the house. By 10:30 am I was exhausted and the house was far from right. I left it anyway, for I just couldn’t do any more. I ate a little something and retreated to my mat for a well deserved practice.
Midway through the standing poses, exhaustion was urging me to stop. I ignored it. Toward the end of the seated poses, weakness told me that I didn’t have any more energy and that I should just quit. I kept on. Partway through the primary poses, after I feel out of a pose and onto my butt, I was feeling like I just could NOT do ANY more. I willed myself to continue on. By the time I finished the entire sequence, I was truly feeling exhausted, weak, and completely done – and yet I was also inspired, empowered, and encouraged for having found my way past all of the excuses that urged me to give up my practice.
Later in the day, when the pork shoulder would not give way to the prodding of my fork and looked as unappealing as the dead rat I found on my back porch just moments later, I began to cry. The family was coming for dinner and I somehow had to overcome this obstacle. So I did what every smart yogi in my situation would do: I picked up the dead rat, went out for a chocolate cake for the birthday boy, and made reservations at a nearby restaurant. With any luck, the overwhelmed and defeated feelings I was experiencing would also morph into something more positive as well.
You might be asking yourself why I chose to name my blog Keeping Balance when it seems that I am always seeking to find the balance. It’s true. I am the gal who wobbles like there is no tomorrow in many of the standing balance poses – especially if I have been asked to stand on my right leg. Then again, this is often the case on my left leg as well.
Much like a runner’s quest is often focused on keeping up with the set pace, a yogi or yogini is often seeking to find balance on and off the mat. In the same way a runner might feel some sort of exhilaration at hitting their goal pace, perhaps qualifying to run in the famed Boston Marathon, the yogi too enjoys the feeling of being in balance. I am learning to not get attached to being balanced but simply to enjoy the experience for what it is. Tomorrow will be different. Good or bad, I will seek to find balance and enjoy the process of wobbling in and out of it. When I find it, my goal is to simply acknowledge the feeling of keeping balance for as long as I am graced with it.
For, just like the experience of keeping pace long enough to hit my goal of Boston Qualification, the thrill of finally getting there (after 9 years and 17 marathon attempts) was all the more precious due to the effort I put into getting there. Keeping balance is not just an item on my bucket list; it is a lifelong goal. I hope that you will enjoy coming along on this journey with me.