Thursday, August 13, 2015

Yoga Teaches Me Something I Didn't Expect

Today, I started what I thought of as an intense yoga practice--back to class at Red Sun Yoga, instead of practicing at home with advice from Charlotte at Yoga Flavored Life.

I struggled with the decision. I feel guilty about spending money on something I can do on my own. I am afraid (terribly afraid) that I will hurt badly through every class and spend half of each one in child's pose with tears running down my face.

But I signed up yesterday, readied my mat and clothes last night, and got up early this morning to make my 8:00 class with Jenn, a substitute for the regular teacher. For calories, I drank only almond milk to keep my digestion stable and then drank a glass of water. I girded my loins on rising, on showering, on driving, and finally, on walking up the concrete steps to the studio.

I got there ten minutes before class. Jenn showed me where to put my things, and I finally put my mat down. And then picked it up to move closer, because it was just the two of us.

Jenn was a marvel. We did poses I didn't know, or didn't know had names (sleeping tiger, it band stretch, seated cow and cat). We began with the slowest and gentlest of warm ups that gave my pained hips time to get used to the idea that I wasn't going to torture them this morning.

This was a 75 minute class in which I spent a total of five minutes on my feet! And yet, it stretched and challenged my hips and shoulders and gave me time to relax completely into each pose.

Jenn and Red Sun Yoga gave me the perfect experience today and proved that a yoga class can be super gentle. I didn't even know! I thought I would get an "intense" experience, but instead, I got an intensely comforting one. I felt cared about, and I cared about myself. I didn't feel slow or incapacitated by pain.

I did almost cry once, but it was in gratitude for feeling safe.

Then I came home and read Charlotte's newsletter about being grateful for yoga, for the way it supports us, and the fact that our bodies are able in their way to practice it.

Thanks, yoga. Thanks, Body. Thank you, Jenn and Charlotte!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Finger

"Do it like I tell you!"

"And another thing..."

"I told you so."

I'm trying to make sense of The Finger. This is something I have been doing since I was a kid. It's the digit equivalent of tapping the microphone, perhaps, or a way of saying, "I am explaining something you should find important, or enlightening, or entertaining, and I will brook no argument or interruption!"

There is more than one photo of me holding up my right placeholder to wag it at the photographer, telling them how to operate the camera.

It wasn't always my camera, either.

The Finger is like an independent entity. It has its own mind, and that's already made up, no doubt about it--like I'm watching Mystery Science Theater: 'Hey, down in front!'

The Finger is preachy and teachy. It never stands up to ask, "What do you believe?" or to exclaim, "You are a genius!"

My scarred, wrinkly index has become an alter ego. I'm afraid that one day, someone will tell me Mr. Fingy has committed an unspeakable crime, and I and Mr. Fingy will go to Manners Jail, where they keep such notables as Judge Judy, talk radio shock jocks, and presidential candidates.

I've been thinking about going on a silent retreat. Maybe Mr. Fingy needs to go on a retreat where he can practice the Hand Asanas and remember that he is one of five.

On their own, fingers blame, accuse, curse, preach, and count coup.

When working together, the hand creates drinking vessels, stop signs, requests for help, promises, benedictions and peace offerings.

Live long, and prosper, Mr. Fingy.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Last Pleasure

Eating is the very first and last pleasure our animal nature experiences. Babies cry at birth and are quieted with milk. You know it's time to let go of the family dog when he no longer wants to eat.

Far from a mindless sensation of hunger, though, eating at the end of life seems to come as a celebration of physicality. It wasn't gluttony that prompted my tiny 91-year-old aunt, dying of liver cancer, to reply to an offer of food with "I could eat."

Sitting with my old cat who was dying, I was surprised every time by her enthusiasm for a bowl of food. She needed water, but she would reject that until a spoonful of canned nibbles would draw her out. Then she would eat with all the vigor of her long-ago kitten self.

One more bowlful of life for me.
What leads us to taste a final forkful even when we know it's the end? The calories we consume may not even be burned. Some would say it is our Darwinian nature driving us to live, although the end is inevitable, even welcome. This portrays dying as the winding down of a worn out mechanism, and our final days its hopeless sputter.

Our consciousness of enjoyment, and our pursuit of it even when things we need to survive hold no temptation, point to something else.

If we were attempting to survive past our sell-by date, we would long for water, yearn for adrenaline, beg for anything that would keep us alive another day.

But instead, a soul seems to say goodbye to embodiment the same way it said hello: by eating.

Dream Florida

In my dream Florida,
The waves gather,
and the porpoises play among them
in pods whose numbers are impossible to count.
In my ideal Florida,
people gather to watch from sand unsullied by tires
in front of long unbroken dunes,
and sandy shacks that blow away in the next hurricane
the only dwellings.
In my Florida,
We don't fear the
apocalypses humans have foretold for themselves.
We are safe.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Yoga Handicaps

Yoga Blocks Help You Modify Difficult Poses
I started a home yoga practice three or four months ago that has been thoroughly rewarding, but sometimes I get so obsessed with the careful pattern I'm creating (kitchen clean-up, tea, yoga mat, music, centering, salutations, standing poses, table poses, seated, prone, supine, savasana) that I get frustrated when something gets in my way.

Enter Oscar Wilde. (The cat.) Sometimes, he gets in my way so creatively that I find that every single pose must be modified in order to work. So, instead of supporting me during hard poses, he complicates all of my poses, making me think and do things differently.

It's frustrating, but it stretches me in ways I can't anticipate, and makes my practice fun and funny.

I'm thinking that this is the purpose of adversity and challenge in life. To make me step out farther and hold up longer... and make me laugh when everything hurts.