Monday, December 13, 2010

Oh, the Memories.

I love the end of the year. I enjoy the holidays, the time off, and the turning of the old year into the new. I revel in reflecting over the year. Even if the downs stand out front and center, I manage to be able to anticipate lots of ups in the coming year.

Of course, I've been reflecting a lot about yoga class. Last Saturday, I had a pretty tough one. It was hot, it was humbling, and I had to leave the room during the standing series. Initially, I was so humbled it hurt. As I walked back toward the hot room, feeling the heat and dread radiating at me, I realized that I actually had come a long way, baby, since starting up this practice again.

I remember my first day back. I knew it would be tough, but I thought, "I run miles at a time. I'm in pretty darn good shape. I bet I do OK." Uh, no.

But from there, it was progress. One way or another. Midway through the semester, I remind my composition students that learning is not always a pretty, straightforward process. We desperately want it to be like this!

But really, it's more like this.
It goes up, it goes down, and there may be more than one way of measuring progress. Learning--progressing--in life or in yoga is so not straightforward.

I remember when I couldn't stand in standing-head-to-knee pose, even with the leg sort-of locked, for the full minute or 30 seconds. My standing leg would just burn, and I'd have to come out early.

I remember when I couldn't do Camel for both sets. I'd feel like my heart was a hummingbird and that someone was about to eviscerate me.

I remember that in Fixed Firm, because knees and ankles tight from running, I couldn't go all the way back. Kaphlbahti breathing made me feel sick, and I could never, ever balance fully in Toe Stand.

Most of all, I remember that I would always have this odd misconception of what other students in the class were capable of, even though I rarely look around the room. "You suck! Everyone else is doing this pose better than you!" I'd say to myself.

I'm happy to say all those things aren't true anymore. Well, they're usually not true anymore. Other challenges have cropped up as some resolve, and some of my hot room demons still haunt my practice.

Progress may not go in that nice, upward line, but one thing is certain: it always goes forward.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


I've been contemplating renovation lately. It's definitely not time for spring cleaning, but the holidays and the coming of the new year get me into pensive contemplation mode. I walk around the house, thinking, "If only I had the motivation to re-pot those chili plants. They've been hanging on for dear life for 9 months now. Gosh, I wish I had the time and the interior design know-how to replace those gnarly curtains in the bedroom."

You would not believe the curtains in the bedroom. They're red, they're IKEA (like, cheap, old IKEA), and they've been sagging and pretty much non-functional since I installed them two and a half years ago. I've been wanting to replace them since about five minutes after I put 'em up. I have ambitions to get a lot of projects done over the winter break because once the semester is under way, I'm lucky to be able to  shower regularly. 

My house needs a lot of work, but even more than my house, the inside of my head needs a little dusting and rearranging.

There's a very cool Ani Difranco song, "Back, Back, Back," that addresses exactly the idea of working on yourself now so that you're not stuck later.

She sings, "When you sit right down in the middle of yourself,
you're gonna want to have a comfortable chair
So renovate your soul before you get too old,
'cause you're gonna be housebound there."

OK, cool. Learn how to be contented with life now, because as we age, the many distractions we desperately cling to now are likely to disappear. I think most of us believe in the validity of that message, one way or another. But how do you actually renovate your soul? And what does the final "house" look like?

One of the things I'm constantly working on is my tendency to over-please. I realize that I do so even during yoga class. I think I know why I love taking classes from new teachers: I perceive them as having no expectations of me, and as a result, I "do" better. When I take a class from my studio owner (whom I love love love, by the way), I stress myself out. I wage an unnecessarily silly mental battle with myself. Because I've been practicing with her for a year and a half now, I have this self-important idea that she remembers stuff about me and holds me to a certain standard. "You NEVER sit out this posture, E. She's gonna remember! Get your fingers to your toes--that's what she's always seen you do before!" Ridiculous. Ludicrous. And as a result of that silly inner-battle, I stress myself out and add to the intensity of it all.

So, when I saw that my studio owner was teaching this morning, I made a promise to myself, a promise I apparently need to make myself before every class. "This class is NOT about her. Just listen to the words and focus on your body." Hand to God, the class was about 50% better than it normally was. I was able not to worry about what I perceived her to be thinking.

Maybe today's class had nothing to do with the actual renovation process. But maybe, I at least took out and contemplated the tools.

One day, I will actually take down those disgusting curtains.

Enjoy this cheesy video for Ani song :-)