Like many do at the start of a new year, I made some commitments to make a few improvements in 2012. One of those commitments, the first one on my list actually, is to "maintain a healthy, balanced fitness regimen." So in the name of accountability, I submit this status update with just a little bit of history.
Since my proclamations in January, I have taken up yoga...again. I say again because yoga has been in and out of my life for the past fifteen years. Yoga was introduced to me all those years ago before kids when my body was young and flexible and there was less of it to get in the way of forward bends and twists. I enjoyed the physical aspects of yoga then but didn't focus on the non-physical benefits of yoga. Once, just because we could, my husband and I had a staycation at home one summer when we took yoga classes everyday. As I said, this was before kids.
When I was pregnant with my first son, I took prenatal yoga classes. I was working full-time during my pregnancy and those classes were luxurious moments designed to rest my back from its arduous full-time job of supporting my big stomach.
Once my son arrived, we did some mommy & me yoga at home and various yoga studios around town. I still recall those blissful moments of lying supine while holding baby above my head, him soaring over me smiling toothless and free. Once he was old enough to walk, our mommy & me yoga moments became cherished memories along with those of his first words and the end of sleep deprivation.
For the next several years, yoga was absent for me. It would have come in handy during those years of early toddlerhood, a move to a new part of the country, and a second baby. But once we were settled and new baby wasn't so new anymore, I took up running instead of yoga. My baby fat told me to and for the next several years, I ran. I ran so much I fancied myself a real runner. That's easy to do when you surround yourself with runners and all you think about is running and what you are going to eat before your run and what you need to wear in the weather for your run and what time you have to be home from your run before you have to get the kids up for school and you even start a blog and name it after running. Clearly, I was really into running both physically and mentally.
And it was good for me, for a while. There is a season for everything and that was my season to run. Then that season ended and I have mourned the loss of it. Now another season has returned, my recurring season of yoga.
Yoga fits my criteria of "healthy and balanced." I am again reaping the physical benefits of yoga. Those benefits show up a bit differently in my body now than they did in my 30-something body. I appreciate them even more. And I am recognizing the mental and emotional aspects of yoga. I'm going to sound like a yogi here, but yoga is more than just a healthy, physical practice. It is life practice. And that for me is where the balance comes into play.
Years ago when I would "come to the mat" as they say, I didn't register with the yogi-speak that yoga practitioners use. They say things like "this is your practice" and that each yoga session is "different and brings out different needs both physical, mental and emotional" and to remember to "connect through your breath." For me all those years ago, it was strictly physical: How flexible could I be? How long could I balance in that pose? How could I avoid using a prop? The only mental aspects I connected with then were my own competitive thoughts and the sense of being somewhat perplexed and annoyed by the excessively audible breathers in the class.
Then through pregnancy and with my new baby, it was all about the physical relief of my body and the physical connection with my child.
Now it is still very much physical but I am also getting the other aspects. I get that coming to the mat presents a different experience every time. I get that I need to leave my expectations outside the studio. I get that my own competitive thoughts muck up my practice. I use props now and I love them for how they actually do help me achieve a pose or not, if my body can't do it on a given day. And guess what? I am what I would have called years ago one of the excessively audible breathers! At least I think I am; you'd have to ask the person on the mat next to me for confirmation. I hear my breathing, I focus on my breathing and I use my breathing. I do connect with my breath and when I don't, it is obvious to me.
Tom Hanks' character in A League of their Own said "there's no crying in baseball." Well, let me say that there is crying in yoga, it's the emotional piece of the practice. I've seen it; I've experienced it and most assuredly will again. I took a three hour yoga class yesterday. As is common in classes, the instructor offered up the notion of dedicating your practice to someone or something dear to you. This dedication is a way to focus your energy and thoughts during practice. My first thought was of my oldest son. He is my mirror and the one that challenges me the most. The yoga practice continues and the next thing I know, after a few repetitions of Surya Namaskar, my eyes are welling with tears and it feels like I have small yoga mat stuck in my throat. Emotional thoughts of my son and our recent and recurring challenges swirl in my head. I recognize them, I release them, I do another chaturanga.
When I came home from the yoga class, I hugged my son. I recognized him and our challenges, I released them and did a mental chaturanga in my life practice. And I breathed.