I did yoga this morning in my living room, among the train sets and spilled blocks, on a rug that needed vacuuming and with a coffee cup sitting out of place. My house is a mess. I am a bit of a mess. And yet there I was in tree pose, with my ego tucked away …
I had to learn how to be that yogini the hard way.
I’ve always had trouble in balance poses. To be honest, I’m not terribly balanced in general – I was a Marine Corps Officer for years and have been accused of displaying control-freak tendencies many a time. One of the main reasons I’m a wobbler became clear to me last month – I’ve never grasped the concept of engagement with the ground as my muscles hug in towards my bones all while relaxing about the notion of falling over. I love to try to muscle through things by sheer force of will. Non-attachment? Hah.
Then I became a mom and now I cannot seem to plan my way out of a paper bag. My son laughs at timelines, asparagus (or anything healthy I prepare), and serves as a living, smiling, joyful reminder that I am just not in control of it all.
I always thought I was doomed to teeter in Lord of the Dance. I had trouble finding a focal point, hated quieting my mind while wiggling my ankle to try to stay steady. I always felt like it was such a noticeable and public failure, that everyone in yoga class saw me moving and falling.
I was suspicious that everyone was staring.
I think my problem was in the forcing.
My ego was all up in my way.
If you don’t learn lessons the first time, you will get the painful chance to try again. I’ve lost loved ones to drugs and alcohol in the past and had to let go of all my cute notions about “saving” them. I still didn’t get it. I’ve injured myself in misguided attempts to ignore the signals my poor body was sending. I still didn’t get it.
And now, my lesson wears diapers. His hair is messy a lot, and sometimes there is yogurt in it. I don’t think the other parents judge.
Life has forced me to slow down and really think about where I am placing each step. I have a new curiosity about my feelings and my interactions with others. On the yoga mat, this has manifested itself in my balance poses.
I love how my body can express concepts well before I can ever articulate them.
Focusing on rebounding and connecting with the ground underneath a carefully-placed foot feels like a metaphor now – there really is always ground underneath us, even when we feel like it has irrevocably shifted beneath our feet and we have not slept in days and days.
I was able to practice this morning in the relaxed and liberating manner I’ve seen on yoga DVDs. Feeling strong and steady in the mess could not have come at a better time for me, but it only happened when I stopped forcing.
I feel a lot more balanced when I am ok with falling over in front of people.
Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas is an assistant professor of Health Promotion at Charleston Southern University. Kate is a former Marine, a yoga teacher, and mom to both a fearless baby and the Great Dane who dotes on him.
Kate can be reached via her website or via @precisionwell.
Order Kate’s new book, Brave Strong True: The Modern Warrior’s Battle for Balance, here or at your favorite book retailer.
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