Friday, July 12, 2013

9:41 PM
In the last 24 hours I experienced two separate events that made me pause and think hard about the intensity and rapid pace with which we live our lives and what this might be causing us to miss out on or gloss over in our pursuit of being successful.

The Yoga Class I Took This Morning
The Other Awesome Yoga Class I Took Today - Family Yoga
For most of my twenties and early thirties I thrived in taking intense yoga classes - the hotter, harder and more crowded the better, as long as I was pushed to the limit mentally and physically. The rock star status of many of the Bay Area teachers and the vibe of their classes, at least in me, reinforced this yoga as an extreme workout mentality and I wasn't satisfied with a class unless I was lunging, crunching, balancing or inverted in a way that would challenge me to the point of failure and give me the lean yoga body that was ubiquitous among my cohort.

Of late, and by comparison, yoga has taken a quieter role in my life. Now, I most often practice alone in my home, and look to yoga more as a restorative and balanced part of my personal wellness routine. Still, when I peruse studio or gym yoga offerings, I always look for the hardest class they offer, and am often frustrated when the Power Yoga Class I selected is more like a beginning flow class.

Today, as I was tapering for a half-marathon, I decided to do a yoga class at my gym instead of my usual run. It was an all-levels Hatha Yoga class with a teacher that I had no experience with. As I rolled out my yoga mat, I took stock of the wide range in age and BMI of the class attendees and immediately decided not to expect much from the class and to be okay with that. And then the teacher walked in and settled herself. Within moments you could tell that this woman was as bendy as they get and had amazing anatomical and yogic knowledge. But what really drew me towards her was the total frankness and integrity and lack of ego with which she conducted the class.

While explaining the logic and the benefit of each movement, she took us through the incremental steps of the various poses. I quickly realized that, while by sheer strength and force of will, I could still do many of the most advanced forms of the poses, I could not, with any grace or stability do some of the "simpler", foundational portions of these same poses. Over and over again as we moved through the sequences she would demonstrate the full range of a pose (which I could often come close to replicating) and then say - but that doesn't matter, this is where I want you to focus your energy. She would then have all of us work on the very elemental pieces of the form, at which point you would find me swaying, hopping, and thudding.  I have not felt more focused and determined in a very long time, much of that in a squat position today, trying to balance on the balls of my feet.

This was intense, humbling, and very eye opening to me. How many other things have I been glossing over, and pushing out of the way as I move relentlessly forward through my life? How weak are my foundations? Have I taken the time to assess and nurture and build them up so that the "impressive" stuff is actually rooted strongly, not just wanted badly? These are hard questions to ask and answer, in a yoga class or in a life. I have no easy answers, but I expect that I will get closer to knowing more after a few more of her classes that stretch my mind and heart as much as my body.

The Drinks I Had With Friends Last Night
By some stroke of magic, two friends and I were able to meet up in San Francisco for drinks last night after the five kids that we have between us (one of them only four weeks old) were put soundly to bed. The wide-ranging conversation at some point centered on whether or not any of us have "unstructured time" in our lives. As parents of young children, we are all well read on the benefits of unstructured play for our kids in terms of their social and cognitive development. But what of any of that benefit of unstructured time have we afforded ourselves?

My friend, who works harder than most and has a toddler, lamented that she felt that she had no unstructured time in her life. She told a brutally honest anecdote about a recent weekend of solo parenting, where she, after putting her child put to bed, spent two straight hours doing nothing but staring out the window. This, to her, was a clear sign that her brain and body were in major need of some down time, and that she was desperate for some means to refill her personal well that had been over-extended in so many ways in the last few years.

There is a certainly a culture of busyness that surrounds our lives (see this article about the Busy Trap). As a working mom, I feel that some of the busy is probably fabricated, but much of it is real. Somehow though, we still have to be able to find that time that is self-renewing and recharging and absent of agenda and constraint so that we can come back to our lives and our families as our better selves. There is also no doubt that, no matter how supportive our husbands, families, and coworkers are, we are the only ones that can make that time happen.

While I have not necessarily found myself starting out a window, there are times where my to do list gets tossed in favor of a lazy read by the pool or a nap. I am slowly learning to be okay with that and to give back sometimes to the body and self of which I ask so much. It is a shockingly difficult thing to do - to be gentle and graceful with ourselves. May we all grow stronger in the effort.

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