Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Starting Home

I've been distant lately, not just from the blog but from so much of what it represents in terms of my connection to a spiritual practice, a physical practice, my health - all that beautiful stuff I started this blog to explore and blather on about.

Since last January, after the marathon led to my hamstring, my foot, then my hamstring again being injured, I've been slowly retreating further and further from running, yoga, and any other type of physical activity.  I didn't want to in the least, but I found I had to.  It's been very frustrating, and I've written a lot about it.  I started the amazing journey with my physical therapist back in late September to try to get me all fixed, and while I'm not 100%, I'm so much better.  I haven't done much running aside from some glorious barefoot 5-minutes-at-a-time sessions back in October and November - before the polar vortex came to stay - but those little sessions were amazing and so different from what I'd been used to and so hard.

I've missed the mood and energy boost from working out just as much as the physical effects, and I recently discovered yet another thing I missed about being active - the extra willpower.  I've always had an emotional and contentious relationship with food, and varying degrees of inactivity brought me back to that full swing.

Even after making big strides in physical therapy, I still almost never took a yoga class for myself in these past almost six months.  Either I was afraid of aggravating my hamstring further (after months of recklessly pushing myself last spring and early summer, I'm done taking chances) or just felt like I was too damn busy and the last thing I needed after a full day of teaching was to spend more time in downdog.

And yet.

I remember talking to a beautiful yoga teacher who is, sadly for me but wonderfully for her, moving to Colorado soon after getting married this weekend (which, if I may say, is a pretty awesome weekend to get married) awhile ago about this.  She mentioned that she was taking a class with a teacher we both loved later that day, after just having told me she'd already taught some ridiculously high number of classes already (kids and grown-ups).  When I asked how on earth she could possibly manage to do more yoga after all of that, she just responded very matter-of-factly that she needed to keep time for her own practice too.

That little exchange has come back to me every so often, and it's been a little bug in my ear more and more lately as I've emerged from a truly insane February and the city emerges from a truly brutal winter.

Yesterday, I practiced at Astoria's lovely Yoga Agora with my absolute best friend in the world first thing in the morning.  And just this evening, I practiced at one of my beautiful home studios, The Giving Tree Yoga Studio right down the street for a delicious 90 minute, half flow-half restorative class.

The amount of mental and emotional weight I can feel having melted out of myself is pretty amazing after just those two classes in two days.  Even today, after teaching 5 kids classes in the morning and one adult private in the evening, I am so happy I dragged myself back out into the wind from my warm apartment to take a class.  All of that plus the beautiful feeling of not being physically spent, exactly, but just knowing that I did work for myself.

When I'm teaching, I'm either playing or demonstrating.  I think I've forgotten what a massive difference there is between that and taking - even if I were to take a class of the exact same sequence that I may have taught.  It sounds obvious to be writing it out, but I never quite realized it.  When I'm practicing, it's my breath, I set my pace, I make modifications if I need to, I let myself be led and cared for by a teacher.  Not only that, I get inspired as a teacher to steal whatever wonderful things I'm doing or hearing to bring back to my students.  I can get stuck in ruts from time to time and I can't believe I forgot how necessary it is to shake things up.

So there we go.  I practiced, and I've revisited this neglected, dusty old blog.  Slowly but surely I'm getting back to a place where I'm carving out time for my physical practice, which always puts me on a road to being happier and saner.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Saucha: Next to Godliness

February was a whirlwind.  The first half felt like nonstop teaching, and the second half felt like nonstop struggling to teach nonstop while losing my voice and being on call for my first doula client.  Now that my voice is back, a beautiful baby girl was born last week (in one of the most unbelievably awe-inspiring moments I've ever experienced!)  and I'm more grounded, I feel like I'm coming up for air, and I'm overjoyed to find that it's finally March...despite the layer of snow and ice currently dropping on the ground.

Despite the snow, when I hear "March," my brain says, "SPRING!"  Now that I've had a day off where I've felt up to doing more than laying on the couch binge-watching The Mindy Project and recouping my energy, I've been indulging in one of my favorite nerdy housewife-y things - Spring Cleaning.  It made me smile, knowing this was my plan for today, to get the March newsletter for my wonderful neighborhood yoga studio, The Giving Tree, and see that their theme for the month is, "Fresh Start."  It's exactly what it feels like - and it's usually how I feel at the start of every March.  (And September.  And January.  And a little bit June)

I always feel happier in a cleaner home, and man alive did this place need it.  Gretchen Rubin, the author of The Happiness Project, which I mention a lot on here, identified cleaning/purging as the first thing she needed to do to start her project.  In her chapter on it, she found it interesting that there's very little research on link to happiness/stress levels and clutter!  She does a tremendous amount of research in her book about all manner of things, so it was fascinating - considering our pop culture's obsession with things like Hoarders - that there isn't much "official" information about that.

Yogically speaking, the first niyama, or observance, is saucha - purity or cleanliness.  Literally, clean body, spirit.  Energetically speaking, a place for everything and everything in its place.  Everyday - brushing our teeth, showering, even making the bed.  Some yogis go further with practices like neti potting, oil pulling, and use of particular oils on the skin.

There are all kinds of deep thoughts and analyses I could throw into this entry about saucha - the interesting quotes from Patanjali's Yoga Sutras (where yamas/niyamas are first mentioned and discussed) that imply our body can never be clean and is in fact something to be considered "disgusting."  I could talk about parallels to certain religions and other implications of purity, and impurity...but that's for another day.

For me, today - it's much more on the simpler (and yes, metaphorical) side.  Deep cleaning the oven, clearing off the (embarrassing amount of) dust off of my counters and bookshelves, cleaning the bathroom - unbelievably simple stuff that just gets thrown to the wayside when things get busy.  It's unbelievable how grounding and inspiring dealing with it can be.  I joke with my boss that I need one day off a week to "do my laundry," but it really is the truth!  To be a good "housewife" it takes at least a whole damn day...and there always seems to be more that you can do.  Adding to that facing and getting our finances in order, which is never fun at the time but always feels (somewhat) good to be done with - icing on the incredibly nerdy, boring, grown-up cake.

The mundanity of these accomplishments, though, don't seem to lessen the quiet joy they bring me.  We may still be in the "lion" phase of March, but my love of spring cleaning is warming my spirit up already.  Who knows - with this solid foundation, I might be able to blog about more yoga-y elements of yoga soon.