Yoga & Stillness

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I take a yoga class every Monday and Wednesday morning.  I love it.  Yoga has become more of a spiritual practice for me throughout the years.  Not in the creepy “Voodoo” “New Age” way a lot of people think it can be.  I just believe more things are sacred than not sacred.  Sharing meals, taking walks, children’s laughter, music, yoga class – it’s all sacred.  Yoga class is place I can go to relax, quiet my mind, and remind myself of important truths like: acceptance, worthiness, rest…and…gasp…stillness.  Stillness: the thorn in my side.

I’m really not into the whole stillness thing. I’m constantly going.  If I’m not literally on the move, my mind is moving a mile a minute. Wait in a line?  Ha!  I don’t wait.  I grab my phone to check the news, reply to texts and look at Facebook for the 100th time.  To me, total stillness in the body and mind feels similar to pain.  And I avoid it.

I went to yoga this past Wednesday morning, and the instructor informed us that we would be working on deeper relaxation.  Coming up on mid-semester, I was thrilled to have some extra time to enter my Zen-Beast mode.  We did some basic movements for the first 30 minutes, then made our way to our backs for a recorded 20-minute guided relaxation session.  We were supposed to stay still.  Perfectly still.

At first, I found it to be extremely soothing.  The voice coming over the speakers was encouraging us to focus on each body part, noticing the way it felt, allowing it to melt, to ground.  Then I realized I wasn’t doing a damn thing.  I wasn’t producing, I wasn’t tweeting, I wasn’t creating.  I was simply on the floor.  Still.  Perfectly still.

I had a panic attack.  All at once, every part of my body felt like it needed to be moved.  I wanted to bend my knees, shake my hands, lick my lips, blink my eyes.  I didn’t want to be grounded; I wanted to run.  Just to DO something. But I stayed.  Not because I wanted to learn some deep truth about withstanding lack of comfort.  No, I mostly stayed because I didn’t want anybody to think I chickened out.  Purely  egotistical reasons.

After it was all done (Thank heaven above) the instructor asked how we liked it.  I told her it gave me anxiety.  I wasn’t doing anything.  She said kindly: “You were doing something.  You were relaxing.”

I realized – Why is relaxing not a thing?  Why do we live in a “crazy busy” world?  We call our friends, ask how they are, and how do they respond? “I’m crazy busy.”  Doing all these things.  Why is relaxing not a thing?  Why is rest not a thing?

Yoga, then, is a spiritual and sacred practice for me, because it’s sanding off the rough edges of the bigger part of myself.  I am flesh and bone and muscle, yes.  But I am more than flesh and bone and muscle.  I work out my body in the gym.  I work out my mind in a classroom.  I need to work out this bigger part of me somewhere, this spiritual part of me.

And this spiritual part of me freaks out in stillness.  In the Christian faith, God says: “Be still and know that I am God.”  Buddha said: “Still and calm is he who has awakened.” There is a reason the world’s religions talk about being still.  It is important to this bigger side of us.  Stillness allows us to be grounded.  In my daily productive, intentional, disciplined life – I cannot forget that relaxation, rest, and stillness are all “things” too.  And they don’t make me less productive, intentional, disciplined – quite the opposite I’m sure.

I’m going to keep practicing my stillness even if I hate it.  Maybe I will freak out again, but maybe I will freak out a little less.  I won’t hate on myself for disliking it.  I won’t chastise myself for wiggling my toes.  Who knows?  Maybe some day I will really be a Zen-Beast.  Maybe not.  Probably not.  But I just might be a stiller, more grounded version of myself in this “crazy busy” life.  I can have the wings and fly and move and dream big; but I have to have the roots too.

#iwearyogapants

yogapants

 

To a Montana representative wanting to make yoga pants illegal and various conservative bloggers wanting to ban them:

I get it.

It’s bad enough that I’m causing America’s men to sin by showing them an outline of my FULLY CLOTHED butt (I mean, there’s just SO much being left to the imagination). But then I have the audacity to want to work out and make my body strong and healthy. Woah now! I should probably find a way to lift weights in a floor length denim skirt. Until then… because the bill was squashed, and I’ve already messed with the balance of the universe – I’m gonna head to the free weight section of the gym and hang out with the big boys – part of accomplishing all of today’s goals: work hard, eat ice cream, and smash the patriarchy.

Namaste, 

Taylor

#iwearyogapants

On Yoga Mats and Being Less Bitchy

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While I step into yoga class to calm myself and find my Zen, I set aside two anxiety-inducing facts:

  1. I just had to madly search every inch of my living space for my vanishing yoga mat.
  2. My car smelled remarkably sour from a 3-day-old smoothie I somehow forgot to throw into any trashcan I passed over the last 72 hours. Did I mention said sour smoothie was not seated in the cup holder? Oh no. It was splayed across the driver’s seat where my large yogi butt had to sit in order to drive to the class that would give me a bikini-ready yogi butt.

I roll out my mat and settle into Child’s Pose, hoping that my body will calm and my mind will follow suit. No thoughts of exams, pressures, or my ever-growing obsession with finding a way to make ice cream a health food. Constant reminders to empty my mind fill each crevice of my brain, and I am fully aware of the irony!

The instructor begins by reminding us to set an intention for our practice. I realize I have no intention perfectly prepared for this moment. Anxiously, I reach into my brain hoping to find some profound truth to hold on to for the next 75 minutes. Bitchy. Be Less Bitchy.  This phrase keeps running through my mind, yet I don’t think the Yogis of Old would appreciate nor validate “Lessening Bitchiness” as an intention. Finally, my mind lands on “peaceful.”  But let’s be real. “Peaceful” is really the same thing as “Be Less Bitchy” – it just has a more meditative ring to it.

The class progresses. I become more flexible and my muscles start heating up. The teacher tells us to rest in Chair Pose. A.K.A. rest in a squat.  My idea of resting is lying on the couch and watching Netflix until my eyes glaze over and words begin to jumble. Orange is the New House of Scandal.   Resting in a glorified squat position seems daunting if not impossible. Sweat pours down my face. My legs shake. I chant: “Bikini-ready yogi butt…Bikini-ready yogi butt…Forget it, I’ll wear a cover up all summer”.

The instructor tells us it is now time for handstands. She explains that there are two times when we should choose to abstain from these balancing inversions:

  1. Shoulder or wrist pain
  2. Menstrual Cycle

Now, I’m not really on my menstrual cycle. But what is she going to do? Check?!? I know handstands result in one outcome for me: face smashed into the floor.   It’s not that I don’t want to stretch my body to do hard things (get your mind out of the gutter), I just prefer to humiliate myself only four or five times a week, and I already met my quota.

Finally, we come to Savasana. The blessed salvation at the end of a sweaty session! I lie down on my mat and close my eyes. The instructor reminds us that we are in a supportive place, we can completely relax. I laugh to myself. I don’t doubt that those around me are supportive, but I have to wonder if I’m lacking a severe amount of support for myself. I take a breath. I retrace my steps throughout the class and decide to change my mind.

  1. If I want to intentionally be less bitchy, high-freaking-five to me! The world needs a little less bitchy.
  2. I can rest in uncomfortable situations. I don’t need to be numbing myself with Orange is the New House of Scandal in order to rest. I am a strong person. Resting in Chair Pose? I got that!
  3. Humiliation is not a required emotion. I can do something silly, wrong, or embarrassing and not feel humiliated. I have an awesome laugh. I should use it with myself a little more often.

We are all telling our stories every second of our lives. Changing our minds and changing negative thought patterns are fantastic plot twists. Choosing to not attempt a handstand because I may fall is a boring story line. Choosing to attempt a handstand and falling is a great action-packed comedic moment.

So I walk back to my car and can feel the bitchiness melting away. I suddenly remember the “Smoothie Catastrophe of the Decade” still waiting for me in my car and choose to laugh instead of roll my eyes. I can, quite literally, rest in this uncomfortable situation without turning up the bitchy factor.

Namaste.