Before I get to how I’ve brought this idea to the yoga, indulge me in a little story about my cat Mefisto. Whose name is now Totoro. Let me explain.
Mefisto came to me as a stray kitten about a year and a half ago. She was completely feral. Despite the fact that I’m pretty good working with cats, she remained the most skittish housecat I’ve ever known. Possibly, she had a traumatic childhood. Whatever her problem is, I can’t get it out of her. She’s cagey that way.
Due to the fact that she was adorable and mostly black and a little bit of a temptress, I decided to call her Mefisto. Mefisto, by the way, is the devil that comes to entice Dr. Faust into exchanging his soul for a life of fame and fortune. The offer is so tempting that Dr. Faust says yes. Brief happiness and then eternal suffering await the poor doctor.
It’s a story of epic proportions, and what a name for a cat. But do you really want the feline version of Satan in your house? After a year went by, my Mefisto never calmed down. Not only did she remain shy with strangers, she wouldn’t let me touch her except when she was eating. The only form of communication she engaged in with me was opening the kitchen and bathroom cabinets, one by one, over and over again.
It gradually dawned somewhere in my stupid head one day that I was doing her a disservice by naming her after Satan. I took a shy, feral kitten and named her after the devil and was surprised she didn’t socialize properly? Oops. (And don’t get me started on the whole Orientalist “Other” conversation! Edward Said would be so ashamed.)
Time for some re-framing. The “frame” I had hung around this little cat was that she was exotic, dark, enticing but ultimately unobtainable. In the last month or two, I have been trying to think of a more appropriate name. Then, one day, I saw her sitting on her haunches, all cute and chubby, gazing at me with that quiet cat look, and thought she looked just like the creature in Mayazaki’s anime film My Neighbor Totoro.
In the film, Totoro is a good creature. He/it comes in and helps the children in the film. They don’t really understand him or where he comes from; they just accept his magical presence. Hence, I now have a cat named Totoro. Much cuter name, much more fun to say. Try it! TO-to-ro!
So, at long last, how does this all tie into yoga? Although I continue to work on stamina in the class, I have made progress in individual postures. Last week I decided to reframe Standing Bow, whose mere name strikes fear into my heart. Now, it’s just called Breathing Posture :-) All I have to do is breathe and try it. If I fall out, it doesn’t matter—all I’m doing is breathing and trying it. And you know what? It works! I can stay in it longer, I can kick harder—more often than ever, the pose just comes together for me, and I finally “get” what the teachers mean by “kicking and stretching being equal and simultaneous!”
I know that breathing is all we ever have to do. But sometimes we have to work actively to reframe things and get over a hurdle.
And guess what else? Totoro has really “opened up” the last couple of months, too! She has become much more vocal, and she is letting me pet her much more often. Not just when it’s dinnertime, either:- )