“Let everything go. Don’t focus on the moment when you fell, or how your neighbor did ‘more’ or did ‘better’ than you. Think about all the love you put into your practice today, and then send that love to the people in your life that need it, the people that support you and share their love with you with no expectations.”
On Valentine’s Day, rather than doing the typical single-girl stereotype of watching chick flicks and/or slasher films on Netflix, surrounded by chocolates, wine and my cat, I decided to treat myself to a workshop with my VERY FAVORITE YOGI, who had traveled up from Florida for the weekend to share her fantastic skills in Core (abs) and Inversion (upside-down) work. I spent two hours in the afternoon stretching every which direction, working my core in ways I never have before and spending more time upside down than if I’d spent a full day on the same roller coaster, over and over and upside down again. It was rewarding and fulfilling in a way that I’ve never experienced in a yoga class, but also FREAKING EXHAUSTING. I was so relieved to sit in savasana (non-yoga people: that’s when you basically take a mini-nap at the end), and the yogi started guiding us through meditation with the lines above. Intense practice like we’d done those two hours can bring up a lot, and as she spoke I felt tears bubble up and start to trickle down my cheek, one after another. It was as powerful laying there, absolutely still, a clear head filled with love, as it was in the moment ten minutes prior, where I held a handstand (if briefly!) for the very first time.
Before I really started with yoga, I had this image in my head that yoga people were these granola hippies, talking about negative energy and chanting mantras, crowing about how we carry bad feelings in different parts of the body, making this huge deal out of arm movements that “opened your heart” and all other sorts of corny statements. My first experience in a yoga studio a few months into my practice was mostly a series of me rolling my eyes at the instructor, not focusing on breath, just trying to do “better” than the girl next to me, and go deeper into postures to impress the instructor. I mean, I started yoga because yoga people are in really great shape, and I wanted to be in really great shape. Not a joke. I wanted the yoga butt, and the yoga arms, and so what if I had to listen to someone say corny things about “listening to your body” and taking “healing breaths” (which FYI is basically normal breathing), so long as I got those things. As my practice started improving, I started following yogis on Instagram to get “ideas for cool pictures,” looking at yoga as a series of “impressive moves” to show off what I’d learned, rather than taking the time to understand how to move my body properly into the postures. Mantras were foreign, as were terms like “pranayama breaths” and “releasing energy,” and it wasn’t until I injured myself pretty seriously in September trying something I wasn’t ready to do (anything for dat Instagram!) that I had to take a step back and look at yoga as more than a means to a great ass.
February has been a really trying month. Between leaving a job, two trips to Connecticut, the Atlantic City weekend and of course, adjusting to the long hours of the new job, I’ve tried so hard to push through emotionally, staying as positive as I can and telling myself it won’t be like this forever. But last night, for whatever reason, I couldn’t. I stared at my yoga mat and tried a few stretches, but I eventually just sat on the mat and started taking deep breaths. I’m exhausted. I’m physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted, and February isn’t even my busy month this season. I was trying to quiet my thoughts in the mini-savasana (reminder: yoga nap), counting breaths, but my mind kept racing; first I was berating myself for not making it through a full flow, then encouraging myself that if this were a year ago I’d be half into a bottle of wine and waiting for pizza delivery. I finally had to resort to the ultra-yoga-hippie nerd move, and started focusing on a mantra that I’ve used in the past when I can’t get my thoughts to turn off: as my mind continued running faster and faster, I started taking a deep inhale, deep exhale, deep inhale, and simply telling myself between each breath: “I will do well.”
Mantras are whatever you want them to be. They can be long, short, complicated, simple, whatever helps you focus and set the intention for a practice. As I sat on the mat last night, exhausted by my life and the general state of being, it was hard to tell myself those four little words. It’s hard to stop moving at lightspeed for a minute and just tell yourself that the best you can do is to do your best. Despite having not done an intense practice, like I had last Saturday, as I took those deep inhales, exhales, and told myself “I will do well,” I felt the same emotions start to percolate deep inside me, spilling over the tip of my eyelids like the slow crawl of a frothy fountain soda. I stayed there for a long time, quieting everything down in my marathon mind, and finally rose from the mat feeling as mentally refreshed as if I’d practiced for hours. I started laughing almost immediately upon standing – look who’s turning into the total granola hippie stereotype she scoffed at less than a year ago.
While I’m so proud of myself for the advances I’ve made across my entire practice, from new arm balances to finally getting into a full split, It feels good to know that instead of focusing on how great my ass looks in a pair of leggings (*which it totally does, but not the point), I’m just focusing on doing my best. It’s a simple goal, certainly not as lofty as “I’m going to get into that great pose for Instagram,” but in that simplicity, it’s the most powerful thing I’ve done for myself in a long time. There will be plenty more weeks of nonstop travel, long nights at work and a whole host of confusing situations that get my mind running, and I’ll definitely be this exhausted and more in the coming year. So I’m glad I have the granola-hippie, yoga-nut, crazy stereotype in me to remind me in the worst of times that “I will do well.”