Friday, August 12, 2011

The Fort-Builders

When I was a kid, my brother was my favorite person to play with. We'd enter into our own world, fashioned typically of boy things like sticks, Star Wars toys, and GI Joes, and everything else would drop away.

When he and I were really young, one of our favorites was to build a fort out of the couch in the spare room. I think it's a common experience for fort-builders: ironically, they're kinda frail. My brother and I would take the cushions off and rearrange them very meticulously so that they surrounded the couch with just enough room for us to slide in on one side. Once we were inside, we had to move very carefully so as not to collapse the walls surrounding us.

There was always something so thrilling about that activity. The joy was in the doing: in the placement of the cushions, the imaginative reasons for making the fort, and the cautious entrance. Honestly, I've forgotten moments after we actually got inside. I imagine we looked at each other, reveled in our creation, and then got bored and punched our way out. Or maybe we started fighting and it all came crumbling down ;-)

I think most of the fun was in the acceptance of the cycle: you build, you love what you're doing, you appreciate it for a moment, and you let it all wash away so you can build it up again. This is particularly easy for kids to do, I think. Think of the way a toddler passes his favorite toy back and forth with you. He trusts that what you take from him, you will give back. (Maybe it's harder for us adults, but I digress...)

I feel like I'm on a similar cusp. I feel this especially strongly today. This morning, I took a step back and looked at what I've been building as I was recognized in a special tenure ceremony. For those who don't know, tenure is kind of a permanent position granted to teachers after you put in some dues and demonstrate you're qualified for the job. (Please note, not all teachers who deserve tenure are afforded an opportunity to get a job, especially these days.) It was such a lovely experience, and what was especially interesting about it was the reminder that the times we're most honored are the ones in which we're the most humbled. I stood on a stage with 12 other faculty members, feeling those two extremes pretty profoundly. I allowed myself to recognize that I've spent the last six years lovingly, joyfully (mostly) building this little fort, all the while knowing I was dependent on all those who continually show me the way and build with me. I may have "done it," but, at most, all I did was combine ideas I pretty much stole from everyone I've befriended along the way. That's the way it is. We build together, and when we're doing it right, we love the process.

It's so like yoga, isn't it? The teachers tell us over and over that it's not the degree to which you exemplify the posture, or whether you get your forehead to that knee. The more joy and compassion we bring to our practice, be with the posture, and are able to let go and happily embrace the next, well... I can't help but thinking those forts will become just a little more solid.

Friday, August 5, 2011


For the first time since I've started teaching, I am able to write these words: It's the end of the summer, and I'm ready to go back.

We start up in one week. A WEEK. It's odd. This has been a pretty wonderful summer, and I haven't checked off half of my summer to-do list. Usually, the looming fall semester rains a shower of gloomy anxiety over me, but this time, I'm really ready! I haven't quite figured out where that openness is coming from this time around--maybe I hit just the right blend between intense travel, yoga, and relaxation.

One thing that I hope to take with me in fall semester are the little yoga breakthroughs that I had these past few weeks. I actually practiced regularly at two studios this summer, just for a little change of scenery! I've heard Bikram teachers say that summer's the best time to practice--your body is just so much more open and willing to change-- and I hope that some of this progress sticks. For one, I can finally get my leg upside-down L like Linda in Standing Head to Knee. I am beginning to think about lowering the elbows.

The other big change came with a teacher's help. I developed a Leaving the Room Tic (LTR), which would threaten to deploy during Triangle. It would then fully deploy during Cobra during classes that reached a certain temperature. It's like my body was calibrated: Hot classes + certain postures = LTR! LTR! LTR! I'd be out of the room and sucking down my after-class Vitamin Water treat before I could stop myself.

Until.... my teacher stopped me. She's been working (quite patiently) with me for over two years now. One of the things I like about her is that she very understanding about LTR and doesn't give people grief about it. Unless, that is, she can see it's just a tic. A few weeks ago, she saw me flip over during Cobra, a sign that I was getting ready to split, and she read my mind. She kindly but firmly encouraged me to stay, and later in the class she talked in general about identifying patterns in your practice that you can then work through. This was great. It was just the push I needed. I knew I could leave if I really had to, but if I didn't have to, why go? It just sets you up for bailing on a regular basis.

Since then, I've stayed in the room. No LTR! It doesn't mean I don't sit down when I need to, but at least I don't leave. Maybe that discipline will stay with me once school starts, maybe not :-) Hmm. Maybe I am going to miss summer after all!