I am just back from a long vacation in Europe visiting family and friends. And I will tell you a secret: I did not practice much asana the entire time. Actually, none really. The occasional cat/cow, arm stretch, a seated twist on my chair, but I didn’t go to any classes or roll out a mat for a full practice. Instead I walked the streets of Amsterdam and Berlin, a museum or two, walked the beaches of Portugal and played a lot in the water.
I am not sure whether this was on purpose or not, certainly I had looked up a few yoga studios in the different places I went to, but between having my kids with me and visiting a gazillion people in each place it just didn’t happen. Part of me also wanted to test my new plateau: I have spent the last 18 months getting fitter and stronger and leaner, it’s taken a lot of time and dedication. I wanted to see what would happen if I let go of the reigns, how far I would slide to the couch potato end of the scale. Well, 6 weeks and 5 lbs later I am here to report that no harm was done, but it’s a good thing to get back on the wagon .
I have to admit I was a little sad to leave Europe again, all the family and friends, the beach, the house, the nature, the quiet, the indulgent rhythm of life we had there.
But New York greeted me with a familiar, unpretentious friendliness: JFK was easy (three cheers for pre-clearance in Dublin!). I shared a cab with two strangers also going to WaHi and we soon discovered mutual acquaintances and parallel stories. I almost felt fondness when the taxi had to swerve because of the usual mad skateboarder in the middle of Audubon Avenue, and I was not majorly alarmed when I spotted some fainted yellow police crime tape near my building – that’s my hood, the good and the bad. Welcome home Hannah!
Coming back to the yoga mat felt very similar to entering our apartment after such a long time: slightly stuffy because of disuse, familiar but not routine. I was looking at things anew, considering them, trying to feel them and figure out their place, meaning and purpose.
Three part breath felt unfamiliar. Where was the space for it, why were my ribs in the way? Sukhasana (easy pose, or pretzel legs as the kids call it) wasn’t that easy, I either felt slumped or my ribs were sticking out. High lunge prep reminded me to get my alignment right in the hips and find the length in the side body, but I was grateful that the teacher didn’t actually ask us to lift up the arms.
But then I also found the familiarity again, my spine almost seemed grateful for the rotation into extended side angle pose. Amidst some creaking and clicking I could feel the lengthening, the vertebrae and tissues and muscles coming into their proper place again. It made me so glad to be home!
While I did not practice any asana during the summer I did continue to keep a watchful eye on my mind. Spring and early summer this year had been pretty full on and a conflict with a friend had me stuck in some repetitive and obsessive thought patterns. I read some snippets of Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power Of Now” and while I couldn’t fully commit to the book, his directives on letting go of the thinking mind were immediately helpful. Throughout the vacation I tried to stop excessive thinking, most thinking really. I would take a birds eye view of my mind and label the chatter as “thinking”. And then attempt to feel and listen to my breath instead. So simple, yet it worked surprisingly well.
Of course this stuff is not new, anyone who has ever taken my classes knows that I often suggest observing the chatter of your mind from a distance. But again and again I discover that I should teach and take care of myself like I teach and take care of my students! I forget! This vacation was a good reminder.
I hope you all are well and hope to see you back in class, I am resuming my regular schedule this week.