Before I became a mother, getting to a yoga class happened a lot more frequently and with far greater ease. Now the opposite is true. Now getting out to a class happens rarely and with great difficulty.
This is a story I have been telling myself for a long time–ever since my daughter came, and it will be five years in May. It has been such a perplexing conundrum for me–how can I be an authentic teacher of yoga asana if I am not practicing regularly? How can I practice regularly when childcare is so expensive? “Yoga Practice” had been put into a box, a box painted with the four walls of a studio, a large enough block of time, and an experienced instructor telling me what to do. I kept believing my story, I kept using my kids as the reason for not practicing. Too expensive to pay a sitter, it takes too long to get there and back, blah blah blah.
And then one day, in the middle of the morning chaos, I decided to just do it. “I am going to grab five minutes of practice, or ten,” I told myself. “Anything is better than zero.” I didn’t sweep the breakfast cereal off the floor or pick up the books that had been thrown underneath the table. I didn’t sort the laundry or carry the breakfast dishes to the sink. I rolled out my mat with my kids running around the house, just like they always do–and I began to move and breathe with purpose. It felt so good just to go into downward facing dog, and I was able to relax into the pose and even smile as my son and daughter were squirming around on the mat underneath me, scrambling through the spaces between my arms and legs as if I were some sort of playground equipment.
Epiphany! I don’t need an entire hour of kid-free silent time to consecrate to my home yoga practice. I don’t have to get a sitter and drag myself out to a group yoga class to practice my postures. If I waited for the silent hour at home or the opportunity to attend a class at the studio, the yoga might never happen. Yoga happens now.
What a relief! I was telling myself a new story, a story about possibility. A seed of awareness was planted that day…a gift of accessible present moment awareness to offer myself and my kids. Five minutes of liberation, right here, right now. A simple practice that I don’t have to wait for, that I don’t have to plan. I didn’t turn my mini yoga practice into a regular thing following my epiphany, but the seed that was planted that day was a good one, and it simply waited for the right conditions to arise before it sprouted.
Tonight as I walked toward my little meditation room for my evening ritual of writing followed by my meditation practice, my eyes lit on the empty play room that was formally my two year old son’s bedroom before he began taking off his poopy diapers and decorating the walls with their contents. We moved him into his sister’s room downstairs so that she could tattle on him if he started any monkey business. So far this has been an effective strategy, and being closer to the ONE bathroom we have in our house puts him in a prime position to be potty trained some beautiful day when the stars align.
The playroom is now deliciously empty, save the plastic connecting blocks scattered across the floor and the piles of stuffed animals carelessly tossed every which way. Luckily, I have long arms, and with a few swooping motions along the floor, I had all those suckers pushed right up to the wall, clearing some carpet space in the middle of the room…enough space for my yoga mat. I rolled it out with a feeling of relief, an inner sigh that rippled through my whole body, my whole being.
It occurred to me as I began to move and breathe mindfully that I am rarely aware of my breathing or my bodily sensations while I’m engaged in creative activities like writing, drawing, cooking, sewing, playing guitar; most often my awareness is stuck in my head where I am constantly analyzing the quality of the work I’m producing, or the lack thereof.
A light bulb went off. Why not take breaks every so often to do a few postures and breathe deeply? Breathing is the source of inspiration, of life, and is so crucial to creating anything that carries the life spark within it. I decided to pepper my writing time with short asana sessions as an experiment tonight, and boy, was I wowed by the results.
Beginning with floor stretches for my hips and legs, some supine twisting to release tension in my spine, and some easygoing vinyasa to warm myself up and get my blood flowing, I started to notice that I felt more and more at home in my body. Each deep breath was a great gift. After a few minutes I was energized, clear-minded, awake, and I was excited to get to my journal.
The mental alertness and the energized state of my body stayed with me as I sat down to write, and I quickly found a state of deep focus–which is pretty amazing considering that I’m sleep deprived, have been held hostage by my own raging hormones the last few days, and the house is a complete mess. I allowed myself some time to gush in my journal about anything I wanted, no editing at all, and I was happy to notice that I had no shortage of inspiration–the ideas and words just flowed. Fifteen minutes later, I returned to my mat.
For the second mini asana practice, I ended up in headstand for a couple of minutes, purposely turning my world upside down, rooting my head in the earth and my feet in the heavens. I imagined that the blood rushing to my head would bathe my brain in the power of this moment, and it would be ready to generate thoughts, inspired thoughts, ideas to spawn new ideas, new visions, a fresh experience of myself in this life in this moment. I found myself wondering why I didn’t come to this realization before. I answered myself, saying, “Because you weren’t ready before.”
So yay. Speaking from experience–even if it’s the experience of just this one night–if you ever find yourself in the throes of writer’s block or are simply feeling blah, just do a few minutes–five, maybe ten–of yoga asana or any other kind of mindful movement accompanied by deep breathing, and you’ll quite possibly feel energized and even excited about your work. You will have tapped into various levels of consciousness–physical, emotional, mental, spiritual–and you might find yourself able to create from a much more expansive, free place that exists beyond the neurotic conditioned mind.
If nothing else, your body will thank you for the increased flow of blood and movement of lymph, the life-giving breath that restores your bodymind to a natural state of calm. No mind-altering substances needed, no specific plan, and not much time at all to feel more like yourself. Heck, you don’t even need a yoga mat! You just need enough space to move your body and enough room in your brain to try something new and focus on your breathing. Try it! Come home to yourself, right here, right now. And tell me how it goes.
Happy homecomings, my friends!