Seven Things You Might Not Know About Yoga

Yes, I'm laughing as  I come out of my imperfect triangle with my imperfect body.  But, oh, what fun!

Yes, I’m laughing as I come out of my imperfect triangle with my imperfect body. But, oh, what fun!

Yes, seven.  Though I did not number them, as numbering implies prioritizing and I did not want to do that.  So there.  And so here, in no particular order, seven things:

  • Yogis come in all shapes and sizes.

Yes, despite what you see in Yoga Journal, or in commercials, or modeling yoga clothes, yogis vary.  A lot.  And the “perfect” body may not always indicate the “perfect” practice.  Someday, I hope advertisers and editorial staff (I’m talking to you, Yoga Journal) figure this out and start using photos of real bodies having real fun.

So, that first bullet leads directly to my second (though, still, you know, no particular order…)

  •  It’s as much mental as it is physical.

Okay, you probably did know this, at least if you practice yoga.  But it bears repeating.  It’s easy to spend your class practicing the physical postures, without remembering you’re also there for the mental practice.

  •  Breathing is hard.

Right now, you’re probably laughing.  “Breathing’s not hard.  After all, we all do it without thinking about it!”  But it is hard.  Hard to keep your breathing calm, and to use it correctly, while you’re once again falling over just.as.your.head.touches.your.knee. (DAMN IT!) or when the frustrations of your daily life interrupt your concentration and the “fight or flight” kicks in during Rabbit… or even during Savasana.

  • Savasana is even harder than breathing.

I’ll just point you at this post…because you know, this is hard for me.

  • Not all yogis are “earthy crunchy”.

Not that there is anything wrong with being an organic vegan tree-hugger… No, but seriously, the idea that in order to practice yoga, I had to give up, to offer just one example, booze, kept me away from it for a long time.  I don’t mean to say that I think those who choose to be what I call, for lack of a better phrase, “earthy crunchy”, are wrong.  It’s just not me.  And I’ve discovered over my years of practice, that it’s not a lot of us.

  • Teachers have bad days too.

Yes, we all have bad days.  And sometimes, your teacher may not be able to hide the fact that she’s having one of those… so cut her a break.  How many times have you come into the studio grumpy, and used her positive energy to help change your mood?  Return the favor!

  • Yes, it is all about you.

Your yoga practice may be the one thing in your life that is only and solely about YOU.  What YOU want, what YOU need, what makes YOU better (whatever better means for YOU).  Glory in it.  And you’ll soon find that letting it be all about you ends in it being all about those around you.

 

 

Fear

There’s been a lot going on in my life lately.  Some things have been ironed out – yay! – and are back on track.  But some medical issues are just going on… and on… and on…

I’m a good patient usually.  I come in with all the needed information; I am always on time for my appointments; I follow up appropriately; and I’m really, really, really nice to the staff.  But recently, the colossal incompetence of a particular radiology department has sent me over the edge.  Back story:  after a check-up, my doctor advised me to see a neurologist.  In order to rule out some very scary things – like, oh, cancer or a brain tumor – I then had an MRI.  So far, so good.  No cancer.  No brain tumor.  But not normal.   Okay…time for further MRIs.  Sure, I’ll go.  To make this long story short, I never had the tests.  I tried.  Twice.

So now what?  Well, it took several years for me to get a correct diagnosis for my Sjogren’s, given poor diagnostic skills at the major teaching hospital where I went to grad school.  It took a full year and every test known (it seemed) for the best gastroenterologist in New York to diagnose the cause of a severe abdominal pain.  Clearly, I’m stubborn enough to do the work that it will apparently take to find out what is going on now.1044343-Royalty-Free-RF-Clip-Art-Illustration-Of-A-Cartoon-Scared-Woman-Curled-Up-In-A-Fetal-Position

But in the meantime…I’m scared.  I don’t like uncertainty.  I am not bothered so much by change, but not knowing makes me crazy.  I just want to curl up under the covers with the cats and not come out until I have answers.  But we all know life is not like that.  There’s work to be done, cats to be entertained, yoga classes to attend, and drinks to drink.  Plus I’m just far too stubborn (yes, I said it again) to allow fear to immobilize me.  And stubborn will beat incompetent every. damn. time.

Truth

I have a horrible temper.  Ridiculously bad.  Most people who know me now don’t know this, because I learned, pretty quickly, that 99.9% of the time losing your temper doesn’t help.  Still, it’s hard.  I really WANT to yell and stomp my feet and pound on my desk and throw things.  Sometimes I do, but I make sure I’m alone, and even close the door, which is nowhere near as satisfying. 

I mean, who DOESN’T want to allow their emotions out in full force?  If you say “me, me”, I’ll just assume you’re lying.  We’ve been convinced that almost all emotions are dangerous and must be controlled, and while that’s not entirely untrue, it’s not entirely true, either.  Though rampant emotion can in fact be dangerous – didn’t you see ENDLESS LOVE? – I think we’ve gone too far toward control.  I think we should shout, and scream, and stomp our feet, and throw things.  Just once in a while, we should let it all out.

But society doesn’t agree.  My workplace (quite rightly) doesn’t agree.  Even my family and friends don’t seem to agree. 

So instead, I do Bikram Yoga.  I play with my cats.  I take long baths with a good book and a glass (or bottle) of wine.    But to tell you the truth – none of it is quite as satisfying as throwing something at the wall.  Especially something that shatters. 

Sigh…

Small Cages Of Joy

I’m lucky.   Despite the whining and complaining I sometimes let spill out about my kennels of irritation, I actually do know I’m really, really lucky.

So this morning during my Bikram class, a random thought floated through my brain (as often happens):  “What’s the opposite of ‘kennels of irritation’?”  And the phrase “small cages of joy” drifted to the surface… 

Okay, okay, it’s weird.  But somehow, it works.  It works perfectly. 

What exactly are “small cages of joy”, you ask?  Well, “it’s the little things”… a few examples: 

1)  My friend who thought to send flowers to my apartment the day I had a biopsy (yes, it was benign!  And that’s a big cage of joy!).  And on that note, the genuine pleasure about those results I felt from the small number of my friends who knew.

2) My Bikram breakthroughs of late…no drinking during class, for one.  For two, seeing my right foot over my head in Standing Bow – finally – for the first time in almost seven years.  (The left foot has always been the more cooperative one.  Hmph.)  For three – wait, can you say “for three”?  should I be saying “too” or “also”? – oh, the hell with it – for three, the minute movement my foot is making toward my calf in Eagle.  And I do mean minute.  But I saw it.  It happened.

3) The text I got thanking me for my help on something – when I had been convinced my help had been taken for granted.

4) The unabashedly excited welcome my cats give me every time I come home.   Even if I just went to take out the garbage.

5)  The silly, yet utterly necessary, emails that my sisters and I send back and forth all day while we’re all at our separate jobs, in separate states. 

6) Wine. 

7) Bourbon.

8)  And especially…rye.

Letting Go, Letting Go, Letting Go Now

Right now, I hate American Airlines. If you follow me on Twitter, you can find out the details (@lolaslippers). In any case, I had a big fight with the counter agent, during which I was very pleased I replaced the phrase “fucking stupid” with “freaking stupid” each time I needed it. Which, for those who are keeping score, was seven. But now, as I relax in the Admiral’s Club (I got a free pass!) with a glass of wine, I am trying to let go.

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I mean, really, from this little children don’t die. It’s not like we’re curing cancer. It’s not even the worst counter experience I ever had. That would be the time, in the early era of e-tickets, that Northwest tried to make me buy a whole new ticket for my return because I had lost my boarding pass from the outgoing flight. No lie. I can’t make this shit up. By the way, if you are still keeping score, they got eight “fucking stupids” and I got on the plane without paying again.

After dealing with the hideously stupid counter agent – and his supervisor – I went outside to cool off. Literally. It was steamy hot in the terminal, but lovely crisp fall weather outside. Yes, I know, it’s March. You complain to Mother Nature.

And I did some thinking.

I decided I am going to let go. I can only be in charge of so much, and right now, being in charge of me is all I can handle. So, people, be stupid, be annoying, try to get in my way… I am going to keep on keeping on. But watch out – you might just get stepped on.

What If I Want My Feet Together Meanly, Or Lies Teachers Tell

In every Bikram class, you will hear “feet together nicely – toes and heels together” many, many times (though not as many as “lock the knee!”).  Now, to follow me here, you have to understand that my sisters and I have one of those long-standing family jokes, only funny to us, about “nice” vs. “mean”.  If we’re shopping, for example, one of us might say “oh, that’s a nice blouse”, which will immediately be answered with “but I want a mean blouse!” and so on.  You get the picture.  (We also do things “on porpoise” and always, always “panic first, look later”, but those are stories for another day.)

Mean feet

So, on days when I am feeling contrary, which would be, oh, almost every day, what I hear myself saying to the teacher is “no, I want my feet together meanly!”  I never would, but I so want to… And it’s not the only snark I’d like to give back during class.

Don’t get me wrong, I love, love, love my teachers – all of them (though yes, I have favorites) – and I couldn’t be happier than when I’m in the hot room getting lots of corrections and even the occasional compliment – but there are some things they all say, I’m assuming because they’re in the dialogue, that just make me want to scream!

The one that gets to me the most is the statement that the more I sit down, the easier it will be to wrap my leg.  Liars!  The few times I came even close to wrapping my leg, my standing leg was almost straight.  The more I sit down, the further away from wrapping I get – I know this.  I can see it in the mirror.  I sit down, my foot moves away from my calf.  So, teachers, what’s with this comment?  I know that the posture is possible – pretty much everyone else in class seems to wrap their legs just fine.  So maybe, just maybe, sitting down further is not the only answer?  I would like to wrap my leg just once before I die.

Another one that gets to me is “if you’re going to fall, fall forward”.  Well, maybe I don’t want to fall for once.  Maybe I want some hints on how to improve my balance.  Maybe I want to fall sideways.  Maybe…oh, forget it.

Finally (today at least), there’s an omission.  I miss being reminded that I should be in class with a “happy smiling face”.  All my teachers used to say it, but I don’t hear it much anymore.  For me, being told to smile really helps.  The “ask” itself makes me smile, and the smile makes me happy(-er).

And now, I have to go have a mean dinner and a truly unkind glass of wine.

It’s New Year’s Eve – Do You Know Where Your Party Is?

I hate New Year’s Eve.  Not the concept, but the event.  It’s one of those high-expectation holidays that rarely lives up to the hype.   You know, like almost every holiday that society tells us should be amazing every time (just wait ’til you hear me on Valentine’s Day…).  Add to that being single in Manhattan, and this is a night that takes proper planning.

So I stay in.  Every year.  I’ve developed a great routine, and as much as I love my friends, I consistently turn down invitations to spend New Year’s Eve on my couch, with my cats.

Where the cats spend New Year's Eve...

After at least one Bikram class, I head home to cook a great meal, open a bottle of wine (or pour something stronger), watch a movie… you get the picture.  And then, at midnight, I take little slips of paper and write on each one something to let go of in the New Year…these papers will either be sent flying into the wind from the roof, or, if I’m feeling lazy, burned.  I shared this with a group of friends one New Year’s and the results were…well, suffice it to say, I never brought it up again.

My dear friend suggested a change in the ritual for this year, and I think I’m going to try it.  Rather than write what I don’t want…I’m going to write (and burn) what I do want.  There are names for this ritual, and she did tell me, but I admit, I’ve already forgotten.  (A., feel free to remind me!)  I don’t do resolutions, but this sounds like a great idea to me.

What are you planning for NYE?  What are your rituals?  Whatever you may do, enjoy, be safe, and see you in 2012!

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