I got to practice yoga with my teacher Dave Oliver again after not going to class for like 2 months. I told myself that I was going to get up at 5am and practice for 2 hours while staying at my parent’s house. I did it for 3 days. I’d get up before the kids, quietly climbing out from between them in the full-size bed (which was mine as a kid) we all shared, and would stagger down the stairs, pass my mom who was saying morning meditations (something she has done every morning before the sun rose since I have known her) while drinking the first cup from her pot- a- coffee- a- day habit, and walk out to the back deck. I’d haphazardly face the directions, the crisp NY air made my hairs stand on my arms and the wet grass smelled like my childhood. Backyard birds sang some peppy and happy songs while foggy layers lifted slowly like a stage curtain. I sleepily acted thankful for this day’s newness and then jumped right into a practice. When I was done I’d sit for some coffee myself in the sunny breakfast nook I had eaten breakfast in every morning as a kid, while my mom and I shared the morning paper.
It was a really nice morning routine and by the time the kids got up I was in my own space and ready to hang with them. But by day four that was old news. I started staying up late to watch TV. Being a TV-free family at home, I became utterly mesmerized by the tele-waves on mym parents big screen and started needing late night fixes. Anything would do, really, but I especially liked Blind Date. The real estate channel for the county in NY I was in, with all those huge old houses on 3 acres for pretty much dirt cheap made me sit and drool and wonder why I had to be West living in a box worth more than I can even say. I watched that channel for hours, elevator music playing in the background of a featured home. I also got reallt into watching the wedding of some crass mouth super-model and Bobby from the Brady Bunch. Reality TV. Hard to believe I am so entertained by it. I’d wake up later in the morning and only stretch for a few minutes in the kitchen. Thendown to only doing a few neck stretched then no stretches and headed straight for the brewing coffee, bagels toasting, butter melting. Then it got even worse. I’d be up so late watching TV that I’d wake up the same time as the kids, not have a moment of quiet childless morning to regroup and rewind before they woke. As soon as we all opened out eyes, I was bombarded with the girls whines and crying and yelling (the way they wake up when not in their own home, poor things.) and I’d stagger downstairs, each one of them under each arm, put them in their carseats and drove straight to the cafe to order up a double shot of espresso and whatever muffin looked good enough to Mia so she would cheer up. My trip started to get fun then. Espresso. Sugar. Wine. Cosmopolitans. Daily. And the occasional American Spirit tobacco stick (this didn’t really happen until I was down in Connecticut with my chain-smoking-after-her-pre-teen-girls-go-to-bed sister.) I enjoyed myself, but in the end of it all my face was zitty, my spine felt like it shrunk an inch or 2, my waist widened and I was severely constipated.
I am grateful to be back in our own little routine in which I take pride in being slightly healthy as far as eating food and moving food through me. When I got the chance to go to Dave’s 2-hour yoga class, I was feeling like I was jumping back on the path to good health. The class was packed. The room is circular and I had the smallest little space for my mat right against the curved wall. Ashtanga involves a lot of jumps and even some splits. It’s an active system of yoga and some space in essential.
I already started out self-conscious with the lack of room and the fact that I hadn’t participated in anything as physical as what I was about to do for the next 2 hours straight, but after my first vinyasa I noticed my old Prana halter top was loosing it’s sports-bra suction right around my right boob and sure enough as I folded forward the second time, I could see I nice view of my tired pink nipple. Each time I bent over my boob fell out a little bit more. After I gave the class a show, I finally figured out how to re-tie my tank a bit tighter around my neck while I was in the middle of reaching up, without my shirt falling off. As people are doing push-ups while holding Scorpion pose—an always impressive sight to see: a handstand with the feet hanging above and then down above the head while toes touching your nose as you lift up your head, I am preoccupied with my loose nipples and trying not to slip on my own garlic-smelling sweat and smash into the wall 5 inches from me. As we start doing floor poses I am getting hotter and wetter and feel more and more trapped in a corner. I loose my breath and my mind starts to wander. I get a good glimpse of the flab of baby stretched skin across my belly, it’s jelly-like texture is hanging over the drawstring of my pants and I do everything I can to pull it in towards my spine, to hide it, yet it just flaps there, jiggling and wrinkled from life and time. I get depressed and embarrassed.
While trying Upavishta-Konasana, which is basically sitting on your bum/crotch with your legs spread apart as far as you possibly can go and then grapping your feet and pulling your entire front body down against the ground between your legs. You need a lot of room to do the pose and I had less than a 1/4 of what my body could spread out to. I struggled trying to angle myself, because even with my legs 6 inches apart, I ran into the wall on the left side of me and I ran into my neighbor on the right. I was getting frustrated because I couldb’t reach my feet with my hands if my legs weren’t spread further apart. I quietly struggled, trying to maneuver some way down into this asana, because I really like the way it feels plus we were going to 15 breathes and when you are breathing deeply that’s a long time to just be sitting there. So I tried totally angling myself vertically on my mat and I hear my teacher offer, “Stop angling around, stay where you are and do the pose regardless of how much room you have. Just do it.”
So with my legs pretty much straight in front of my body I leaned forward. I felt two long and thin yet strong and weathered hands come over each of shoulders and a face by my head. By the freckled cheek and hair the shade of gray after years of being a beach-comber, I could see it was Dave. “Internal. It’s all internal. Stop thinking about the outside.” His voice was kind and matter-of-fact. It wasn’t the pose or the physicality, it was about the eye between the brows and the spiral down around the navel and the river that runs both up and down from the neck to the lower back and it’s about that hollow spot in the brain, directly behind that third eye (perhaps even the true home of that eye) that they say looks just like the shape of an angel. It’s about cultivating what lives in that spot, that little space that we are. That our world is.
I had been on a steady role of judging myself this month: what I was putting in the body, how I was parenting while traveling, how I acted staying with my own parents, how little I was exercising, how sloppy and dirty me, my kids and my house are compared to my mom and my sisters and my old high school friends who have huge houses and scrapbook and decorate and have maids and tummy tucks. How I looked in my jeans. Why I had crops of zits sprouting across my brow. Why I live in a city (this can be said for most cities in the country) I truly don’t like to look at; it’s ugly to me and I don’t like all the cars I see driving, the kind of buildings I see being built, or most of the people I see around me. I don’t like what I am doing which I feel is nothing but an oppressive and under-paid system of dishwashing, stroller-pushing, trying to catch up on laundering, cooking and burning, bath-giving, hand-holding, butt-wipping and milk-making. And I think I don’t like it because I am not particularly good at any of it. At least I don’t feel particularly good at it.
“Internalize” Dave said as he walked around the room. He said it two more times. I took it straight to heart. I have been trying to live inside a bit more these past couple days since that class. And I feel better. It’s like working everything from the inside first, and then that leads to less of a fixation on what it seems to be on the outside. At least that’s how it’s working with me. It’s like if I can just stop and feel each situation I experience from a place down somewhere that feels totally free and safe, a place I can’t really explain in words, then by the time I am acting I am coming from a seed of truth, a truth I have visualized for myself. I’ve been a bit (just a bit) more patient with the kids and the husband and the population as a whole. I have stopped really caring about ‘cleaning’ my house, but it seems to be sanitary enough for me. I notice the small spots here and there that are clean and the joyful messes left by kids are just them having fun and experimenting with life. I see the dirty and stinky socks my husband takes off and leaves around the house, but instead of clenching my fists and gritting my teeth, I see them as evidence of the long hard days of work he does to give us a bit of leverage in this life. I stopped trying to ‘parent’ and I let go of everything I thought a parent should be (active, clean, always attentive, able to calmly rationalize with a toddler, never frustrated or helpless and only feeding her children whole fruits and vegetables and grains and proteins 5x a day) I am finding the girls and I are spending more time in consecutive minutes, maybe even hours, where we connect and love and learn without tantrums or demands or threats.
I am going to try to keep living a bit more inside. I know it can’t hurt and it really does feel good right about in my heart center when I consciously take a step into and down and through and imagine the outside actually being what I need it to be to keep things sane instead of picking and poking at the virtual dish placed in front of me. It makes me feel bigger, more expansive to be like this. Like I am so much more than this body, yet just this body. A lot like light and air, yet with a dash of warm firewarming a root-filled earth. It’s definitely something to keep trying for. It feels good.