On the calendar it’s Spring … yet here in southwest Pennsylvania, Mother Nature says “not quite yet” with several inches of snow this morning & still falling. Yoga classes cancelled, no school today … the boys & I went out for a walk at dawn, quietly padding along the softened sidewalks, only the sanitation & salt trucks (thank you!) out & about.
Once back home, the boys fed, watered & snuggled for their morning snooze, I’ve delighted in a 90-minute Hatha practice, followed by meditation & abhyanga. After a several-week run of mental & emotional activity, this snow day is a welcome respite.
“Must be nice,” your go-go-go mind says? Mine too. And yet a few minutes of quiet in one’s day — an extra moment to take in the smell of a good cup of coffee, allow your gaze to pause at the brilliant white of snow (before the plows get to it), or gently massage those too-tight temples — can be just as satisfying to our minds & soothing to our nervous systems. So go for it! Take a mini snow day right now & I’ll see ya back here soon ;).
Welcome Back! How do you feel?
Now for some of my snow day musings … Enjoy!
The latest trend is that yoga is for everybody and for every body. I believe this as much as the next person, but that doesn’t mean that a practice that’s right for a 25-year-old woman is also appropriate for someone who is 50 years old. – Pat Shapiro, “Yoga for Women at Midlife and Beyond” (2006)
That quote was from 2006 … how does this thought resonate with you in 2018? For me, I feel tension. As a very stubborn redhead (Case in point: There’s a story going around that as a toddler I held my breath til I passed out because I was pissed at my parents) part of me says, “I can do what I did 15 years ago, I’ll show you.” And for the most part, I can –I can power through X, Y, Z “advanced” poses. I can get into a few pretzel-like shapes. They’re not on Instagram, but I can do it.
Indeed, as a very stubborn redhead I can power through workday after workday, I can hike for miles, I can sleep 5-6 hours, get up & go. And go. And go.
And can I tell you how I feel AFTER I do, do, do all this “advanced” stuff — on the mat or out in the world? Ah, but you already know =).
While yoga is (in part) a form of movement, it is not exercise in the Western sense. And there’s the tension. While often we’re encouraged to exercise to the point of exhaustion, the yoga practices & philosophy encourage movement as a form of rejuvenation, not depletion. I’ve heard it said that in yoga we practice at about 65 – 75% of our capacity — this is the “sweet spot” that gets our inner fire stoked, yet not flaming uncontrollably & scorching our bodies / nervous systems to the point of depletion (whether after one mat practice, or over years of depleting practices).
So, let’s embrace the tension: Yoga is for everybody & for every body. If this is so, then the movement, breath, meditative, & lifestyle practices of yoga ALSO must be tailored to the individual. As Pat Shapiro says in “Yoga for Women in Midlife & Beyond:”
Yoga is a homecoming, a coming home to ourselves.
It doesn’t matter that the person next to you in class can balance on one foot longer than you can, or that her form looks [just-so] in a particular pose. Each of you is a different individual with a different body, a different history, and a different mindset. You each have your own strengths and limitations. And you are each in a different place every single day.
In yoga practice, we even avoid competing with ourselves. Perhaps you were able to hold a posture longer yesterday than today. Rather than criticizing yourself or pushing yourself unnecessarily, we learn to accept that this is where we are at this point in time. There may be a very good reason for the difference: maybe you didn’t sleep well last night or your mind is preoccupied because of distressing news you received before you began practicing. All these things have an impact.
It helps to keep in mind one of the concepts from classic yoga philosophy: the idea that everything changes. Once day you can balance on one foot for a full minute; the next day you can’t even stand for a few seconds. Or, your allergies are terrible today. You can’t go out of the house without having a sneezing fit. You feel like allergy season will never end. Yoga philosophy tells us that WHAT YOU’RE EXPERIENCING IS REAL … and it will change. Simply knowing this can give a broader perspective on your varying responses to your practice.
I muse on these things because I need to hear them … I need to hear that yoga is for every body … for my body … as she is today. I need to hear that my practice 10 years ago isn’t my practice today. Going further, my “doings” in life off the yoga mat 10 years ago aren’t my doings in life today. What I am experiencing in my body / mind today — whether I label these things positive, negative or neutral — is REAL … & will change.
May you gain some benefit from these musings too =).
Finally, this is why I’m loving sharing Hatha yoga practices in my little corner of the world. I love observing how people in my classes adjust the postures mindfully to fit their bodies on that day, and/or how the yoga teachings can support them in doing so through variations of poses, breathing techniques or relaxation support. To witness a body “come home to herself” is an amazing privilege.
So, yoga is for everybody & every body … AND I hope we will approach the practices & philosophy of yoga with Pat’s reminder to attend to our unique bodies/minds on our unique days in our unique stages of life. In this way, we continue our journey home to our Selves. May it be so!
Here’s my pile o’ books from the library — the amazing feeling of an armful of books — & for FREE! What’s on your reading list this snow day? I’d love to add to my list!