Thinking Yogi

The intersection of two loves: yoga and writing.

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While driving out to the suburbs for a cousin’s birthday party a few weeks ago, I readied my answer to the quintessential kid-in-the-car question. Depending on my mood, my answer can be compassionately accurate (“It’ll be a while – maybe another 30 minutes”) or sassily sarcastic (“I hope we’ll make it by dinnertime tomorrow”).

As an adult, I’ve grown out of needing to continually wonder when we will arrive at our destination, mostly thanks to Google Maps, but also because I’ve come to realize that life is a journey and blah, blah, blah. But when I’m not in one of my sassy moods, I can completely empathize with my kids’ question, both because I was an “Are we there yet?” kid myself, and also because I still get that same sort of unease during in-between moments as an adult.

My family is moving back to our house in a matter of days. We’ve been out for a year while renovations were being done, during which time we also welcomed our newest family member. So it’s been a full year, to say the least.

b2ap3_thumbnail_InBetween_20160428-142745_1.jpgOur life right now is boxes, tape, and Sharpies; it’s deciding what to keep, what to find a new home for, and what to donate; it’s not being able to find some crucial something that has inexplicably been packed away too early despite our best efforts at strategic packing plans (why did I think I wouldn’t need my yoga props this week??!?!?).

This is an uncomfortable place to be. Not really because of the boxes and the not finding stuff, although that’s certainly part of it. More because we’re not really here, and not really there. We’re nowhere. In-between.

Yesterday, despite the fact that there’s still plenty of packing to do, I needed to make time for yoga. And of course I couldn’t find my mat, so I just rolled myself out on the hardwood floor.

Lying on my back, I contemplated the in-between, practicing being comfortable there. I began to deepen my breath. I practiced being completely there to watch the way my rib cage expanded to accommodate the breath, and on the exhalation I practiced letting go of the effort of breathing. With my eyes closed, accompanied by my familiar friend the breath, I was at home, despite my bare, boxed surroundings.

At the top of a deep inhalation, I paused for a moment. There I was – not in the inhale, not in the exhale. I was hanging out in some other place, a quiet state where I could feel my hearbeat, a pulse in my belly. I took a long, slow exhalation and paused at the bottom, noticing a feeling of emptiness, of grounding, and a slight panic: is this enough? will I ever inhale again? Of course, it’s okay, I soothed. And then the cycle began again.

Life is full of these in-between moments, in big and small ways. There are job changes, times of illness or loss, relationship shifts, welcoming a baby, and of course, the ever fun home renovations and moves.

These moments are when we need to rely on some kind of inner sense of home, a strength that helps us feel unshakable even on unfamiliar ground. For me that means yoga, and my breath specifically. It’s the constant, the thing that has been with me from the day I was born, a tool I’ve learned to wield as a yoga-practicing adult, and it will be my daily companion until the day I die. 

Over the years, I’ve been here, I’ve been there, I’ve been in-between. I know I won’t have time to roll out my mat (if I could even find it….) on moving day. The truck comes at 8am and we’ll be going non-stop until we fall into bed in our new environment with all its unfamiliar sounds. But fortunately my breath doesn’t need to be packed away, so I’ll know just where to find my yoga that day.

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Posted by on in Family

Parenting spoiler alert - having kids is not all pony rides and lollipops.

I was talking with a friend on the playground the other day about the challenges of staying patient despite the everyday irritations of life with small and inherently less-rational people. On those 40-degree mornings where my kids refuse to wear jackets because they claim that extra clothing slows them down when they play tag on the playground, I remind myself that part of my frustration comes from the unrealistic expectations I have for my kids. For some reason, despite years of proof otherwise, I expect that they will take the logical path over whatever impractical, fun idea is stuck in their heads. And as they shiver yet refuse to budge in the coat department, I feel the tantrum boiling up in me, and before I can stop myself I say (to my two kids under the age of 6), "Why can't you act like normal adults?"

Parenting is trying. Children are wonderful, sweet, loving, and hilarious, but parenting them is a lot of work. Knowing that, I was surprised to find that one of my happiest parenting experiences occurred the week my husband was out of town for work and I was in charge of the little monkeys for 5 straight days (with some help from my wonderful sitter). I fully embraced the fact that I was the one who had to get snacks and drinks and break up arguments over Hot Wheels. I let small things go, knowing that I couldn't possibly fight every fight, knowing that it didn't matter if they behaved "perfectly." I had more fun with them than I'd had in months. Instead of policing their kid-ness, I tried to find more ways to be silly with them in order to entertain myself so being "on" full-time wasn't so much a job as a chance to spend time connecting with two very special little human beings. I realized that if I let my adult self go for a little bit, I could find the humor and playfulness in many of the same ridiculous games that would have normally driven me crazy.

Then my husband came back and I had a little more time to myself and I found myself getting crabby again. Now, don’t get me wrong. I'm a big believer in taking time for myself; I know it makes me happier and healthier and better prepared as a parent to nurture my children. But I also now know that the shift between sane, adult "me" time and crazy, sleeve-tugging child-time can be enough to make any adult throw a tantrum. I come home to incessant fights over who gets to use the tape dispenser first? This isn't fair! Don't these children know I just had an amazing massage? They're going to undo 60 minutes of relaxation in 60 seconds.

I'm practicing better managing the transitions between times when I've been away as an adult, in a sane and rational world, and then I come home to toys strewn about and children who need something every five minutes. I'm practicing detaching from that part of my life instead of clinging to it, instead of wishing that I could send just one more email or read just one more page of the book I was enjoying before I came home. If I am honest with myself and recognize that "me" time is over as soon as I walk through the front door, I can fully give myself to the present and really be with my kids wherever they are - silly, whining, or somewhere in between. Sometimes just the thought of having to do it makes me want to throw a full fledged tantrum, kicking and screaming on the floor, but then I tell myself to use my words and we all make it through just fine.

Tagged in: motherhood transitions
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Posted by on in Yoga

This morning on my way to the studio, the light went from gray and rainy to gloriously golden in a matter of minutes. I took off my scarf, looked around, and for a moment felt unsettled: I had no idea what month it was. Were it not for the leaves falling it could have been spring, the start of the warmer weather.

Seasonal transitions test our ability to go with what is. We can't control whether we'll luck out with the gloriously golden or have to endure the gray and rainy. The only thing to do is to dress in layers and prepare to be surprised.

I'm working on the equivalent attitude adjustment with life transitions.

It's much harder, because more is at stake. I want to know clearly where I stand at every moment, I want to control how all the pieces fall. But when I am in transition, I am neither this nor that, and it can be painful for the ego to experience this confusion. The ego's job is to assert its 'I-ness,' but during in-between moments it can't fully do its job. My initial tendency is to project perfection on the future state I am transitioning to, to imagine that things will be so much better when I get there. But is that really any way to enjoy my life?

I've found it helpful to practice being okay during transitions on a physical level first, on my yoga mat. Sometimes it's tempting to think of the practice as only its end points, the asanas themselves. But when I feel unsettled in my daily life, when I'm not sure how everything will come together, I slow down on the mat and really focus on the transitions between poses. I try to be fully present as I move from up dog to down dog. Rather than 'shutting off' after up dog is complete and 'turning back on' when I get to down dog, I pay attention to precisely how I move from one pose to the other: I consciously roll over the tops of my feet to shift my weight back and grow into that long, satisfying stretch. There's a little itch to just get there already, to just be in the pose I'm headed towards. But then I remember, that is exactly the point: the transition is the practice, too. The transitions, the in-between times are my life, too. When I really work at it and experience these in-between moments fully, they are just as glorious as their end points.

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